When Good Ghosts get the blues: a beechwood harbor ghost mystery
**Coming November 29th, 2018**
Scarlet’s next adventure is coming next week! It’s been such a long time coming and I honestly can’t wait for the release date. At the end of Ghosts Gone Wild, Lucas presented Scarlet with a plane ticket to visit him in New Orleans. Please enjoy the first chapter and make sure you use the link at the end of the sneak peek to pre-order your copy of When Good Ghosts Get the Blues.
Some days I question the sanity in keeping two full-time house ghosts literally hanging around my apartment. Okay, full confession? Somedays was actually more like mostdays, and in the last week, it was every day that ended in a y.
“Has anyone seen my necklace?” I asked, coming into the living room of my small apartment.
Blank stares met my question.
Seriously, was it so much to ask that they at least try to keep tabs on the basics? I wasn’t asking them to be my life coaches, but you know, reminding me to buy toilet paper when I was running low or tracking the status of my car keys seemed within the boundaries of acceptable expectations.
As it was, I’d been searching for the wayward necklace for a good thirty minutes and had come up empty. The clock on the wall was all but screaming at me to give up the hunt as the departure time for my flight to New Orleans ticked nearer. I hadn’t even done a final check to make sure I had everything I needed in my suitcase.
“Guys, please? Can you help me look?” I asked, chucking throw pillows out of my way as I searched the cracks between the couch cushions. “It’s the one Lucas gave me. It’s got a white-gold chain and a little compass pendant.”
I held my hand up to my chest as I described it aloud, willing it to materialize against my skin. “I don’t want to start our vacation by telling him I lost it. He only sent it a week ago! The only time I’ve ever taken it off is to sleep and shower. I’ve already checked the bathroom counter and drawers, the floor, and the garbage. It’s not in my dresser or nightstands.” I dove to my knees and folded over to look under the coffee table.
A hovering figure cleared his throat. “I don’t know where the necklace is, Lady Scarlet. However, since you seem to have a free moment—”
Glaring, I peered up through my sheet of auburn hair and snarled, “I don’t have a freemoment, Hayward.”
Hayward Kensington III recoiled, his top hat wobbling as I glowered at him. “I have to check in for my flight in less than—” I rocked back onto my knees and looked at the clock. “Argh! I have to go. As in, right now.”
An amused purr rumbled down from the back of the couch. “You really are hopeless, aren’t you? Over a hundred years silently observing people and you stilldon’t know how to pick you moments.” Flapjack, the fluffy Himalayan ghost of my childhood pet stalked to the length of the couch, his thick tail twitching with interest. “As for you, Scar, if you wear the right outfit, the last thing Lucas is going to be thinking about is the missing necklace.”
“Oh, for the love of—” I shot him a glare and then flopped forward again, sweeping my arm as far as it could reach under my shabby but comfortable couch. Sure, Flapjack kind of, sort of, had a point. It wasn’t like my boyfriend was going to get one look at my necklace-less décolletage and send me packing back to Washington, but it was a matter of principle. He’d sent me the gift, six days before I was set to fly out and meet him in New Orleans where he was currently working. I wanted to show him how much I appreciated the thought of the sweet present. As the head of security for the home-renovation reality show, Mints on the Pillows, he traveled a lot and we’d spent more time on Skype calls than face-to-face since we’d started dating. I was already nervous about seeing him again and wanted everything to be perfect.
Where was it?
I tapped a finger against the lips. “If I shine a flashlight down the drain, could one of you stick your head into the pipes and see if it’s there?”
Hayward floated around so that he was within my line of vision and started again. “I would be happy to attempt such a search, Lady Scarlet. However, before we begin, may I make one final petition?”
“You have five seconds,” I growled, shoving up from the floor. I stalked back to the bedroom and yanked the sheets from my queen-size bed. I shook them out and then balled them up and pitched them into the hamper when the necklace didn’t present itself.
I cocked my hip, my eyes narrowed at the bed, as if it were mere seconds from cracking and telling me what I wanted to know.
Hayward made a coughing sound and I swiveled my gaze in his direction. “Yes?”
He removed his top hat and held it at chest level. “As you know, Lady Gwen and I have been … rekindling… our relationship and I think that a trip away would help us … well, erm—”
Flapjack popped into sight with a longsuffering sigh, his huge eyes rolling toward the ceiling. “He wants to watch Gwen go Mardi Gras crazy so he can get ghost lucky.”
Hayward surged up so quickly, his head went through the ceiling. Yes, throughthe ceiling. It happens. His silvery torso and legs dangled in the room for a full moment before he regained control and forced himself back down to the floor. “You will refrain from speaking of Lady Gwen in such a tawdry manner!”
“And if I don’t refrain?” Flapjack challenged, his whiskers twitching with delight. “What will you do then, Stuffy? You gonna challenge me to a duel? Pistols at dawn?” His amused eyes shifted toward me. “What do you say, Scar? Will you be my second?”
“Right now, I’d probably wind up shooting the pair of you,” I muttered. I swear, one more minute of their bickering and steam was going to pour right out of my ears.
Flapjack chuckled, the sound a strange mix between a purr and the sound he’d made when hacking up a hairball, pre-death.
“Lady Scarlet, ignore this cad!” Hayward said, turning away from Flapjack, still clutching his top hat. “I have no intentions of anything improper occurring on your trip. I only want to show Lady Gwen the sights.”
Flapjack opened his mouth, no doubt something lewd on the tip of his tongue.
I shot him a death glare and pointed my index finger at the tip of his nose. “Zip it.”
He twitched his tail but closed his mouth.
“Hayward, I get it, I really do. But, as I’ve explained ad nauseam, this is a ghost-free trip. Ever since Lucas and I met, we’ve been swarmed. All I want is a week to ourselves. No ghosts, no supernatural crises. Just some time alone. Okay?”
Hayward frowned, his thick mustache falling as he did. After a moment, he gave a resigned nod. “Very well, Lady Scarlet. I shan’t ask again and sincerely wish you a lovely trip.”
“Did you just say shan’t?” Flapjack asked, putting a bit of snobbery on the final word.
“Flapjack…” I growled.
“I’m sorry, Scar, but he leaves these things wide open.”
I sighed and went to the bathroom. One more fruitless search of the countertops, drawers, and under the bath mat, and I gave up with a heavy sigh. “Can you guys at least keep looking for the necklace while I’m gone?”
“Of course, my lady!” Hayward replied, his tone slightly buoyed.
Flapjack tilted his head. “What’s in it for me?”
Their simultaneous answers painted a crystal-clear picture of our dynamic and for a moment, I was almost tempted to let Hayward come along on the trip with me. Heaven only knew what would happen the moment I locked the door behind me and left town. Luckily, neither of my companions showed a penchant for manifesting, so I had the peace of mind knowing that at least my belongings were safe in the case that a civil war broke out in the apartment.
Flapjack wasn’t happy about being left behind either; he’d just given up the fight a lot sooner than Hayward. For over a week, my ghost companions had launched a full-out assault on me, begging and one-upping each other to get me to agree to let them come along on my trip to New Orleans. The barrage of requests weren’t rude—well, except from Flapjack, but that’s because he’s … well, Flapjack, but the persistence was wearing my nerves down into dust.
I’d be happy to settle into my first-class seat and leave it all behind for a week.
“Tell Gwen goodbye for me,” I told Hayward before swiveling a finger to Flapjack. “Be nice to Lizzie. Holly has strict instructions on how to banish your fuzzy butt if you start becoming a menace.”
Flapjack frowned. “What a touching goodbye, Scar. Our first time apart in twenty years and that’sthe last thing you say to me? Yeesh.”
I sighed. “If you behave yourself, there’s a can of tuna in it for you.”
His eyes brightened. “Deal!”
As a ghost, Flapjack couldn’t partake in a fish feast, but he enjoyed the smell of fish. The cannery along the water had recently cut back their production and he’d bemoaned the loss of his pungent afternoon strolls along the docks. He’d begged me to buy cans of cat food or tuna but I’d resisted. I wasn’t born yesterday. He’d unwittingly handed over a powerful bargaining chip and I knew how to pick the right moment to put it down on the table.
My suitcase stood by the door. After nearly a decade of world travel, I knew how to fit everything into a small pack, but I’d opted to bring a suitcase on this trip to leave room for souvenirs. Not that my apartment really had the space. I could hear my mother’s voice in my head just thinking about bringing home another knick-knack. Luckily, my parents lived in Arizona and weren’t planning a visit until Christmas time. Any long-suffering commentary about my crowded apartment was stalled for at least a few months.
Keys in hand, I paused at the door and looked back at Hayward and Flapjack. “Bye, guys. I’ll be back before you know it.”
Hayward raised a gloved hand and waved. “Farewell, Lady Scarlet.”
“See ya, Scar,” Flapjack said, jumping up onto the couch. He turned in a circle and lay down. “Don’t get into too much trouble. Remember, you won’t have us there to bail you out.”
I smiled. “I think I’ll be just fine.”
He harrumphed,and I left the apartment, locking the deadbolt behind me.
Ten hours of travel later, I found myself seated across from Lucas in a charming cafe, right in the heart of New Orleans’ Garden District. A myriad of scents mingled together in the open-air: dark coffee, freshly baked bread, and sugary-rich pastries. Soft music blended with the chorus of cheery voices around us.
I pulled my eyes away from people watching and smiled at Lucas. “The city is just waking up, huh?”
He squeezed my hand. “And I’ll bet you’re ready for a nap.”
I laughed. “Nah, I’m all right.”
Lucas raised a skeptical brow.
“I slept on the plane,” I said, taking a sip of my café au lait. “I’ll be fine. Besides, I’m on vacation. I can sleep when I’m home again.”
“Fair enough,” he replied before drinking his own coffee. “Just remember, I’ve done my share of red-eye flights, so I get it if you need to hit the pause button at some point today.”
“I appreciate that,” I told him, smiling as the caffeine drip went to work. I leaned back, studying the detailed molding and corbels on either side of the archway that separated the front of the café from the seating area. Lush plants spilled out of mismatched pottery on every available surface. Normally, it would make a room look cluttered, but with the huge windows and bright natural light, the plants blended right in. “This is a really cute spot,” I noted.
“I’ve been coming here most mornings since getting into town,” Lucas replied, following my wandering gaze. “The concierge at the hotel recommended it.”
“So, is the Carter’s property close by, then?” I asked, wondering which pocket of The Big Easy the hosts of the popular TV show had carved out for themselves.
“About ten minutes,” he said, nodding. “We can go check it out later today if you want. It’s a really cool house.”
“Any mischief of the spooky variety?” I asked, smiling.
Lucas laughed. “You’re itching for a ghost story already, huh?”
“Actually, no.” I thought back to the conversation I’d had with Hayward and Flapjack. “I already know I have a lecture and a half waiting for me when I get back. A full week off sounds like a sliver of heaven, if you ask me.”
“So, you’re really flying solo?” Lucas asked, glancing around the cafe.
I laughed at the wary look on his face. “Really, really. I told the ghosts they had to stay home, hold down the fort, that whole thing. They weren’t happy about it, but I made sure there weren’t any spooktacular stowaways before I left the apartment.”
“And there’s no way for them to just … zoom… here anyway? I mean, they know you’re in New Orleans, right?”
“Yes, but they can’t just close their eyes and appear wherever they want. It doesn’t work like that.”
Lucas twisted his mug back and forth.
He’d known about my abilitysince our first date. I didn’t make it a habit of telling people my secret, but with Lucas, I hadn’t been given much of a choice. The house he’d been surveilling for the TV show was haunted by a jilted bride who’d spent twenty years whipping herself into a real fever pitch. When she’d manifested and started throwing pottery around—mainly at our heads—I had to fess up and handle the situation before she could do any more damage.
Lucas knew about Flapjack, Hayward, and Gwen—my three invisible amigos. Overall, he’d handled it well. Sometimes I thought it was harder on me, trying to keep both worlds separated as much as possible. It was difficult for me to relax and enjoy a date night with takeout and a Netflix movie when there was at least one, if not two or three, ghosts swirling around, their ceaseless commentary humming in my ears. Things got especially sticky when Lucas realized I was distracted by ghost chatter and would inevitably ask to be looped in, leaving me as a strange translator.
“When I first agreed to let Hayward be my travel buddy, he came with me on buses, trains, and in cars when I traveled around the UK. But when it came time to go back to the states, he had to fly on the plane. But, there’s something about air travel that doesn’t mix well with ghosts. I think it has to do with the altitude. I had to put him in my ghost trap for transport just to get him home.”
“That little silver ball, right?”
“Yeah. I thought it was kind of a joke when I first saw it at a flea market. I actually bought it to shut Flapjack up. He was driving me crazy with these stupid knock-knock jokes. There was a book in the hotel bathroom—” I stopped short and flapped a hand, banishing the irritating memory. “Anyway, I tried it, and it worked. Though I think trap is the wrong word. Or the spell is bad. Something. The ghost has to be willing to enter the trap. But once there, it’s safe to take them anywhere. It’s come in dang handy over the years!”
Lucas stared at me, a look of bemusement on his handsome face.
I stopped and glanced down at the dregs in the bottom of my coffee mug. “Let me guess, you’re sitting there wondering how on earth you ended up dating such a head case.”
He laughed, the chuckle low and soft. “I’m wondering how on earth I ended up dating such a beautiful, brave, and fascinating woman.”
“That so?” I asked, cocking a disbelieving brow at him.
“Hey, at least we’ll never be one of those couples who run out of things to talk about over dinner?”
I smiled. “Lucky us.”
He lifted my hand and brushed a kiss to my knuckles. “I certainly think so.”
A woman at the counter called out Lucas’s name, and he jumped up to go retrieve our order. I watched him cross the room, swerving around a neighboring table, and then stopping to pick up a dropped napkin. He smiled and exchanged a few words with the small child who’d lost the napkin before stepping up to the counter, where the barista handed him two plates.
And he thinks he’s the lucky one.
It wasn’t the first time a thought like that skittered across my mind. There was rarely a day when I didn’t feel the need to pinch myself and make sure I hadn’t dreamed the tall, muscled, sandy blonde-haired man into existence.
He returned to the table and took his seat before handing me a plate piled high with roasted red potatoes and a mound of scrambled eggs. I took it and breathed deeply of the savory scents before setting the plate in front of me. “Thank you.”
“Dig in,” he said, passing me a fork.
We took our first few bites and then Lucas glanced up at me. “I was just thinking how it’s weird that I feel like I know Flapjack and Hayward, even though I’ve never met them before.”
I cocked my head. “They’re both a little like that wacky college roommate everyone seems to have. They’re never actually around, but they star in a dozen stories about the good old days.”
“Exactly,” he said, still rumbling with laughter. “Well, except for the part where they’re never around. With those two, they’re kind of alwaysaround.”
“Not this week,” I said, brushing my thumb over his knuckles. “No ghosts, no hijinx, no problems.”
Lucas glanced down at his coffee. “Let’s hope I can hold up my end of that bargain.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” I asked, my fork hovering between my plate and mouth.
He flashed a boyish grin. “Well, to answer your earlier question, the Carters haven’t reported any strange happenings, but the word around town is that the hotel they’re renovating was once quite the hotbed of paranormal activity.”
He chuckled and stabbed his fork at a piece of melon on the side of his plate. “Just keep a bag of salt handy. That’s all I’m saying.”
I sighed. “I never leave home without it.”