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 (2 page)

My goal in the graveyard had been to save
Marietta from the devious spirit controlling her. We had no idea
what the ghost of my ancestor, Catherine Roberts, really planned.
For months, she threatened me, saying when I was gone she’d have
everything she desired. I realized too late she didn’t want me
dead. She merely wanted my body.

“It was pretty amazing of you to pay for her
care.”

I gaped at that tidbit. It was the last thing
I expected Catherine to do. Clever move on her part, convincing
everyone she had a heart.

She shrugged, looking slightly embarrassed.
“Regardless of what she’s done, she’s family.”

“I hope Marietta recovers. Her mental state
was pretty dismal last I saw her.” He frowned. “Catherine really
did a number on her.”

I caught the way her face hardened, and her
response came out brisk. “She’ll be fine. Being away from Savannah
has probably done wonders. I’ll call them later today.” Jason
didn’t seem to recognize the lie. “And you’re right. It’s taking a
while to get used to having the house to myself. All those times I
wished for it, and now, two weeks have passed, and the size
intimidates me.”

She sighed sadly. I almost believed her. The
kitchen tilted underneath me as I realized she was better at being
me than I had ever been. The traitorous notion pulled a fresh well
of frustration from me. I struggled to wrestle it under control as
Jason left. Once the front door closed, Catherine spun, pinning me
with a pitying look.

“It’s no use. He can’t hear you.”

Habit tempted me to recoil from her, but I
stood my ground, surprising both of us. “He’ll realize you’re not
me. You’re different.”

“Apparently, he doesn’t think I’m different
in a bad way. I’ve had years to watch, Quinn. It’s easy to play
you.” She leaned closer. “He deserves someone who can fit into his
world.”

“Why him?”

She adapted a dreamy expression. “He’s
important, powerful. Jason knows all the right people. On his arm,
I’m the belle of the ball again, which is all I’ve ever
wanted.”


How did you do it? The night in the
cemetery? I felt my soul being ripped from my body!” I clenched my
fists. “Give me back my life.”

“No. I enjoy your life.” She pivoted on her
bare feet and sauntered out of the kitchen, leaving me with a
whirlwind of emotions. I yearned to hurt her, but so far, I hadn’t
figured out how to touch anything without my hand passing through
it.

Catherine paused in the doorway, intent on
getting in one last pithy comment. “It’s kind of ironic, actually.
You spent all your time obsessing over ghosts. Now, you
are
one, and all your silly little questions can be answered.”

An idea rose up out of the smoldering embers
of my hatred. Catherine was right about one thing, all my questions
could
be answered. I set out in search of the other ghosts
haunting my house, determined to find out how to return to the land
of the living.

 

 

Chapter
Two

 

Icy pinpricks raced up and down my arms as I
stormed out of the kitchen. Nothing warmed me these days, not the
sun, not even the anger. The coldness was physically impossible,
considering I didn’t truly have a body, yet my fingertips stayed
numb. As I brushed them along the banister of the back staircase I
only felt a slight sensation of the hard, time-worn wood.

I didn’t know why I was haunting my house and
not the graveyard where the body switch happened. Not that I wanted
to be there. No way. The only saving grace of this whole fiasco was
being in my family’s home. I passed the entrance to the attic,
ignoring how it called to me, tempting me to come up and wallow in
my frustration and helplessness.

Built in the 1850s, the large colonial
mansion was listed on the National Historic Register and fronted
one of the oldest, most prestigious streets in Savannah. White
columns stood proudly out front, supporting a wide, ivy covered
porch. A beautiful house and an everlasting reminder of what I
stood to lose if Catherine’s ruse continued.

I heard the shower on in Marietta’s old room,
the one Catherine claimed as hers, and followed the sound. The
bathroom was steamy, and she sang to herself, a ridiculous song
about a girl saying, “call me, maybe”. Nibbling on my lower lip,
feeling the burn of familiar hate toward her, inspiration struck.
In the condensation obscuring the mirror, I used my finger to write
her a message. I didn’t expect it to work, considering I had such a
hard time touching things, but after a little concentration, I
observed my hard work with a smirk. At least it was progress.

The words “I’m coming for you” were scrawled
across the glass. Glancing down at my hands, I could already tell
they were fading again. Huh.

“Well, what do ya know? It worked,” I
whispered out loud while staring at my fingers in awe. It was
entirely possible emotions were the key. I’d have to remember that.
Then I snorted. Easier said than done these days though.

Lame and immature, but the prank filled me
with satisfaction as I went about my previous mission to find my
housemates.

My mama used to tell me stories of the ghosts
who lived here, but I knew them long before she shared her tales. I
saw them at an early age. Of course, turning into one gave me a new
perspective.

As usual, Jackson Merriwether stood guard
midway up the main stairs. A soldier and Catherine’s first love, I
kept badgering him for the reason he continued to haunt my house.
The parts of his story I’d heard left me heartbroken, the intimate
details tied to my ancestors.

Stomping toward him, I marveled over how
vivid he appeared. He looked solid, as physical as I used to be.
When I touched him, he was real. No longer a flickering,
transparent form. It never failed to remind me of how strange my
life was now.

For a moment, Jackson’s looks distracted me,
momentarily dousing my motivation for coming to talk to him. His
dirty blonde hair brushed the collar of his Confederate uniform,
and his blue irises, a cross between the sky on a hot day and a
deep pool of water, fixed on me. Grief froze his face into a grim
expression, making him more like a glacier than a person. He had
tried to save Catherine but had been too late. I assumed he never
forgave himself for that.

Returning to the frustration I felt in the
kitchen, I struck out at the person closest to me. “I’ve got to
stop her. We need to come up with a plan of attack.”

His steely glare didn’t change as he regarded
me. His strong, tan hand flexed into a fist, the only indication he
heard me. Finally, he said, “I cannot assist you. It’s impossible
and pointless.”

The statement fell flat between us, void of
emotion, and only stoked the fire of anger living under the surface
of my skin lately.

“How can you say that? I don’t deserve to be
here!”

His eyes narrowed the tiniest bit. “Many of
us don’t belong here. The sooner you let go, the sooner you can
move on.”

“Right,” I snorted. “Great advice coming from
someone who’s been stuck in this house for over a century.”

“I have my reasons for staying.”

“And you keep those locked up pretty
tightly,” I muttered, crossing my arms.

“They are mine. As you said, I’ve been in
this form for a long time, close to a hundred and fifty years.
You’ve been here for sixteen days. My perspective is a little more
accurate than yours.”

It was the most I’d heard him say in a while,
since the night he told me about Catherine and how they were
plotting to run away together before her husband killed her.

Something snapped as a flash of Jason kissing
me—no, her—danced through my mind with the grace of a wrecking
ball. I latched onto the heat and shoved Jackson with so much force
he actually stumbled backwards. The truth was, I wanted to hurt
him, to show him the pain I felt.

“I don’t want to be like this anymore,” I
yelled as I continued to pound against his strong chest.

Either my attack surprised him too much to
fight back or he didn’t really care, but it took him a while to
trap my wrists in his hands.

“You’re so pathetic! She’s the devil! I hate
her! I hate Jason! He can suffer right along with her. They deserve
each other as they rot in hell!”

There was no reining my rage in.

Until, a small voice called out. “Quinn,
stop.”

And I did.

Glancing up, I saw George standing at the top
of the stairs, looking down on Jackson and me with sadness in his
little face. The urge to snarl at him burned bright. It didn’t
matter the boy was a companion growing up, dressed in slave’s rags
and always so friendly, a confidante who listened to my hopes and
secrets. In my grief-stricken moment, he became the enemy. Like
everyone else.

“Anger ain’t helpin’,” he added.

His simple statement stole some of the bite
from my attack. “It’s the closest I’ve come to being alive.” I
stared at my hands as if they didn’t belong to me. “I used to never
get mad. Not even after all the terrible things Marietta and the
twins put me through. I don’t feel like myself anymore.”

George shook his head, and Jackson released
my wrists before lecturing. “What you want might not be possible.
You won’t get it by giving in to darker emotions. They’ll trap you
in a vicious cycle of reliving everything you’ve lost. If you want
to beat Catherine, you must be smart and patient.”

He had a point, and I ducked my head in
embarrassment. Of course I’d never tell him how much his words
humbled me. He and George helped me some, but it was hard to trust
anyone. Especially when they lectured me to accept my new status
and move on. Not happening.

“How do I control my emotions? They take
over, and I can’t stop,” I asked, shifting the conversation to a
more neutral subject.

Jackson reached out to raise my chin until I
stared at him. “You let go.”

“Sure, forget about the life I had. I’ll find
a way to get it all back. I’d take a hundred years of the crap
Marietta and her evil spawns dished out over this.”

I didn’t mean to stomp my foot, but I did. Of
course, Jackson noticed.

“Acting like a child won’t accomplish
anything.”

“A-a child?” I sputtered. “How dare you!”

“All I’m suggesting is to keep a level
head.”

“Don’t tell me what I can’t do!”

It would’ve been nice to have someone in my
corner, coaching me. There was nobody to tell me where to start or
what I needed to do. Figuring this out on my own intimidated the
heck out of me. I didn’t have anyone on the other side fighting for
me. Not yet. Suddenly, I wanted to be alone, to be anywhere other
than the one place that gave me comfort.

I spun on my heel and stalked to the front
door.

“Where are you going?” Jackson asked, his
tone impatient, indicating he still thought I was being
immature.

“Out.”

“You tried that yesterday and came back after
sunset, having gotten lost and frustrated.”

“Only because I got distracted by this really
big dragonfly.” I hated feeling like a complete airhead. It didn’t
happen every day. Sometimes, I woke up and remembered what I was,
each maddening detail. Then there were mornings, like this one,
where I thought life was normal, that I still had a heartbeat.
Distractions were worse. I’d catch the scent of a flower and spend
the afternoon trying to recall what kind. “Why am I so
forgetful?”

“You’re not human anymore.”

“Shut up. I am. I am human.” I enunciated the
words, as if saying them forcefully enough made them true. “I don’t
care. I’m going.”

“What good will leaving do?”

Stopping mid-stride, I glared over my
shoulder at him. Ugh, he made me so flipping mad.

“I’m leaving because you suck. This ghost
crap sucks. The whole situation...sucks!”

Okay, not the best approach to prove I wasn’t
being childish. Too late to take it back now. I reached out,
suddenly wishing I was solid enough to grab the handle as I had
before in the bathroom. I needed a good door slam.

Except, right before I bounded through the
two-inch thick wood, the doorbell rang, freezing me in place. I
studied the entrance for a half second, confounded by who might be
on the other side. Sensing someone behind me, I peered over my
shoulder to see Catherine approaching, wet hair brushed back and
her face a mask of weariness. Her hesitation made me suspicious.
Who did she have to be afraid of?

“Check who it is,” she ordered in a hushed
tone.

“No,” I scoffed.

This time our visitor pounded on the door,
and Catherine tiptoed over to the side window.

“It’s that friend of yours. So annoying.”

She flounced off, leaving me gaping in her
wake. Abby! Holy crap. I forgot about her, as impossible as it
sounded. She’d help! She’d know I wasn’t acting normal. Surely,
Catherine would let her in, if only to continue her idiotic ruse.
Pressing my ear against the wood, I listened closely and heard a
familiar sigh. Oh my gosh, I was the worst friend ever for letting
her slip my mind.

As Abby’s footsteps retreated, I leaned
through the door, nearly collapsing in a fit of giggles when I
imagined what it looked like—a head sticking out, nothing else. My
mirth doubled when I noticed a couple random paparazzi across the
street. Imagine the picture they’d get! Then my mood soured.
Apparently, Catherine was a hot ticket these days because of Jason.
I didn’t like that one bit.

Abby turned down the sidewalk, a defeated
gait in her step and her pink tipped hair swinging behind her. My
heart went with her, but a smile also bloomed on my lips as I
jumped through the wood to follow.

 

 

Chapter
Three

 

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