Read A Strange There After Online

Authors: Missy Fleming

Tags: #ghosts, #paranormal, #savannah, #haunted house, #series, #ga, #body swap, #desperation, #paranormal investigator, #ancestor, #alliances, #happily never after, #missy fleming, #savannah shadows, #a strange there after, #dangerous entity, #dark presence, #talk to ghosts

A Strange There After (10 page)

He increased pressure on my wrist. “Do not go
after your enemy when they are heavily armed and expecting you. You
wait until the opportune moment.”

I hated it when he made sense. The secret to
beating Catherine didn’t lie in an all-out assault. I had to be
patient, pick my battles.

“Waiting is hard when I have to stand around
and suffer this stupid link we share.” He stared at me in
confusion. “I’m serious. We have this strange connection when we’re
close to each other. I feel exactly what she does. If Jason kisses
her, my lips tingle. Her affection and smugness are transferred to
me.”

“How can that happen?”

“Brilliant question. When I discover the
answer, you’ll be the first one I tell.”

He kept sneaking quick glances of his arms,
as if reassuring himself his wounds were gone. A couple minutes
passed until he lifted his head to look at me, his blue eyes
twinkling.

“Have you considered what it means? This
connection?”

Hearing Jackson further the conversation
stunned me. Little by little, he seemed to be warming up to me,
showing interest in my situation. Of course, it might have
something to do with the fact I just saved him a world of hurt.

“No,” I grumbled. “Another one of Catherine’s
endless methods of torture.”

“This so-called link may be important. Think
about it. You are feeling traces of what your body is. It could
mean there is still a connection.”

His statement hung in the air between us,
heavy as the Georgia humidity. My brain worked it over, letting it
take root. It sounded too tempting to believe.

“Is that possible? I mean, you’ve been a
ghost longer than I have.”

“I don’t know. This is uncharted territory.
She pushed you out of your physical form, the body you inhabited
for eighteen years. Why do ghosts linger in the places they died?
There must be some relationship between spirit and flesh. An
imprint.”

Desire thrummed through me. “Can I test
it?”

He shrugged. “I figure so. Force yourself
into her space. If you can occupy the exact same position,
something might click.”

A memory hit me. The day I walked through her
to break up the kiss with Jason there was a pinch, just for a
second, but at the time I attributed it to my actions, not anything
more promising. Joy soared, taking flight inside me. Had I been
unconsciously trying to get where I belonged?

I leapt and threw my arms around his neck,
pressing my lips to his cheek. When I separated, he appeared
dazed.

“What was that for?”

My cheeks flamed over my uninhibited action.
“No big deal. I know you’re not the biggest fan of getting involved
in drama, so it means a lot to me when you help.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not very busy at the
moment.”

“Now, jokes? Careful, you might have fun.” I
beamed at him. “I’m going to try tonight!”

“Since you will likely ignore all my
arguments about being rash, there is only one warning I can give—be
careful.”

“Yes sir!” I saluted him and skipped out of
the room, high on the chance this might work and the exhilaration
of having a plan.

Then, a voice broke through my optimism,
right inside my head and doused my optimism. It was the man.

Impressive display earlier. You, my dear,
are much more interesting than I imagined. We’re going to do great
things together.

 

 

Chapter
Ten

 

It took forever for night to arrive and
Catherine to fall asleep. Certain she’d guess what I intended to
do, I avoided her, deciding space meant safety. She might have been
able to read the intent on my face or, for all I knew, she actually
felt my feelings the way I could with her. Scary thought. The
desire to test it tempted me, but not enough. It would have really
tripped me out.

I snuck upstairs, carefully putting one foot
in front of the other then nearly burst out in hysterical giggles.
I was a ghost, which rendered tiptoeing obsolete. Before stepping
through the door into Catherine’s bedroom, I muttered a quick
prayer to let this work.

Sure enough, she was sound asleep, sprawled
across the king size bed on her stomach. Huh. Jackson might be on
the right track. I always slept in that position. If my body
remembered something so trivial, it quite possibly could recognize
its correct inhabitant.

“Don’t leave me.”

Freezing in place, I craned my head
frantically to see who spoke.

“Please.”

Oh, Catherine. She continued to sleep, her
eyes flicking back and forth rapidly behind her closed lids. I
watched her body twitch from her dream, fists clenching and
unclenching. Her breathing sped up, and, out of nowhere, grief
punched through me. It must have been the trusty link we shared.
The sadness grew, stealing my breath and causing me to gasp out
loud.

“I don’t want to be alone.”

As much as it disturbed me to feel her angst,
I also wished I had the ability to crawl inside her head, to spy in
her dreams. Discovering a weakness might be the key to unraveling
her cavalier attitude. But as hard as I strained my mind, I
couldn’t do it. Not to mention, I felt like an idiot staring at her
and funneling my thoughts so intensively.

Gradually, Catherine stilled. Her movements
became less jerky, and I sensed myself relaxing with her. Did she
dream about Jackson? Maiming puppies? Ugh, Jason? Shrugging aside
the disturbing images each of the possibilities presented, I drew
in a deep sigh.

“Alright,” I whispered. “Let’s do this.”

Cautiously, I crawled onto the bed an inch at
a time, keeping an eye out for any sign of her waking. Coming to a
stop, I knelt between her legs, one hooked out to the side at an
angle.

“This is awkward.” I bit my lip to shut
myself up. Now was not the time for bad jokes.

My nerves thrummed, telling me to forget this
crazy idea, to leave the room and never come back. I refused to
listen to doubt. Now was not the time to get squirrely and run
away. Slowly, I lowered myself down, being careful to match her
body position, right down to the curve of her fingers and curled
toes. I caught the scent of the coconut lime body lotion I used for
years and paused. Seriously? It was bad enough she looked like me,
now she had to smell the same, too? Not cool. Irritated, I carried
on with my mission, adjusting my body until our limbs aligned.

A breeze erupted around me, flowing over my
skin, charged with energy. It tingled, like electric ants crawling
everywhere. Nothing fit. My body was a wet sock two sizes too
small. As I bounced around, it made me think about what it might
feel like to swim in Jell-O, unable to move my limbs
correctly—slippery as all heck. It took some maneuvering, but the
instant I found the right spot, I knew it worked.

The room faded to black, and for a moment, I
panicked. Oh god, what did I do? Lost in the darkness, my body
spasmed as it fought to find a way out. She tricked me! Lured me
in, then flipped the switch. I was so stupid.

Too soon. I’d tried to get my body back too
soon.

Slowly, I came to the realization I couldn’t
see because my eyes were closed. Calm crept in, and I regulated my
breathing. Then I felt it. Strong. Determined. Undeniable. My
heart. It was beating in my chest. A rhythmic thudding that told me
I was alive. A sob snuck out of me as relief flooded in.

I did it.

The steady rise and fall of my chest was the
most soothing feeling in the world. With blood pumping warmth
through my veins, I felt powerful. Strong. Able to do anything.

Stretching an arm, a smile curled my lips as
the muscles reacted. Home, I thought. I was home. I realized I was
wasting precious seconds reveling in something that used to be
second nature. Sighing, I tried to remember if I ever laid on a bed
this soft.

The fleeting thought dissipated quickly when
I remembered my eyes and the fact I needed to open them. Before I
managed the simple task, an impact jarred me from behind. Not
physically, but spiritually. It felt exactly the way it did the
night Catherine took over. Another pinch, worse, like being pulled
through the eye of a needle. As hard as I could, I tried to hold
on. I didn’t want to lose this again.

“No, I won’t give this up!” I mumbled,
finding the action of making words awkward, out of practice.
Frantic, I tried to fight back, to hang onto my physical being as
tightly as I could. But already, I felt it slipping further and
further away.

Catherine’s angry scream came from nowhere,
filling my mind. I was aware of her with me and managed to stave
her off, but only for a moment. I fell backward, landing on the
hardwood floors. Already the warmth was fading, rapidly being eaten
up by the deep chill of my spectral form. My heartbeat vanished,
too, leaving me empty and lifeless. I lay there for a couple
seconds, wallowing in my misery.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

Sitting up, I looked directly into
Catherine’s outraged expression. She stared at me bug-eyed, her
chest heaving in exertion. Wrapping my arms around my stomach to
hold myself together, I bit my tongue hard before speaking, and it
chased away the grief.

“You had to figure I’d try it sooner or
later.”

The levelness of my voice surprised me,
considering I trembled from head to toe with exertion. Next time, I
needed to make sure I had a surplus of energy beforehand.

“I have to say,” she continued. “I didn’t
think you had it in you.”

“Why not? Why is it so hard for you to
believe I wouldn’t fight for what is mine?”

Catherine brushed the hair out of her face,
and I noticed it was even lighter than it had been a couple days
ago. Instead of dark brown, almost black, it shone in a honey brown
accented with darker highlights. How dare she!

“Because I know you, Quinn. You’re a poor
little mouse.” She yawned. “Now go away. I’m going back to sleep. I
can tell by how see-through you are that you won’t be attempting
anything stupid again tonight. Get out.”

Rolling over, Catherine pulled the covers up
to her chin and promptly closed her eyes.

“I’m not going anywhere,” I said loudly.

She didn’t stir, either ignoring me or so
comfortable in her victory she fell quickly back asleep. I tried a
few more times to rouse her, but exhaustion won over, and I felt
ridiculous shouting without getting any reply.

Beaten, I retreated from her room.

No, I reminded myself. It worked, for a
minute. I felt my heart, my breathing. When I tried again, I needed
to be stronger. Catherine might not be aware of it yet, but I was
starting to get the hang of this ghost nonsense. I just hoped it
didn’t become a permanent thing.

 

 

Chapter
Eleven

 

Each hour Abby and Boone didn’t show my
annoyance grew. Waiting wasn’t my forte. Two nights passed, and I
itched to see a friendly face. I hoped Boone hadn’t found something
more interesting. But then, I was definitely a one-of-a-kind story.
Surely, he couldn’t walk away from that. If he bailed, Abby
probably wound up doing all the research herself. Maybe he needed
me to come haunt him.

Obviously, impatience turned me cranky.

At least I didn’t feel depressed, even in
light of my failure last night. For the tiniest sliver of time, I
returned to my body, and despite being kicked out, I remained
hopeful. A promise of resolution hung on the horizon. I was going
to win this. I needed to be smart and wait a few days before trying
again. All I needed was to catch Catherine off guard and become
stronger in order to push her out completely.

After spending most of the day waiting for
the doorbell to ring, I wandered into the yard, naively thinking
I’d find some answers. Near the carriage house I paused, and after
a minute or so Jackson joined me. Somehow, subconsciously, this
seemed to have become our designated meeting place. Defiantly, I
refused to let the dark entities scare me into staying in the
house. It was
my
backyard after all.

“You rattled her last night.”

“How do you know?”

He offered me the tiniest of smiles. “I may
not have much interaction with her, but the connection between
Catherine and I remains strong.” He shrugged. “It’s more of a curse
than anything.”

I leaned against the oak tree, running my
fingertips along its bark, wishing it felt like something other
than a tickle. “It worked. For a couple seconds.”

“Now you know it’s possible.”

“Yeah,” I snorted. “Maybe in a decade or so I
can manage to do it for a whole hour.”

“Despair is your enemy. Do not let it weigh
you down.”

Studying him, I had a hard time reconciling
this man with the quiet, stoic soldier I remembered growing up. A
month ago, he barely talked to me at all. Since then we’d become
friends, sort of. I considered him the big brother I never had.

“It’s hard to stay positive,” I grumbled.

“You have to keep trying.” He paused, his
blue eyes growing more animated. “The best plan of attack is to go
after Catherine when she’s vulnerable, as you did when she was
asleep. The farther Catherine is from the house, from this male
entity, the weaker she is. He cannot leave unless she lets him in,
and she hasn’t, not since the night she overpowered you.”

I pushed off the tree and drew closer to him.
“You have to know more about them. Who is she? How can I stop her?
What does the guy want? Are you certain they’re not the same
person?”

His hands shot up, as if to ward off my
questions. “I’ve told you all I know, and it’s not as if we sit
around sipping iced tea and getting to know each other.”

“No one wants to talk about this freaky lady.
I don’t get it.” I rubbed my hands over my face in frustration.
“So, what you’re saying is I need to lure Catherine away?”

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