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Authors: Stacey Coverstone

A Haunted Twist of Fate

BOOK: A Haunted Twist of Fate
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A
HAUNTED TWIST OF FATE

 

By

 

Stacey
Coverstone

 

 

Copyright
2012 by Stacey Coverstone

 

Cover
Design by Sheri L. McGathy

 

 

Visit
Stacey’s website at:

 

http://www.staceycoverstone.com

 

 

This
is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the
product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance
to actual persons living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales,
is entirely coincidental.

All
rights reserved. No part of this ebook may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission of the author. This ebook is licensed for
your personal enjoyment only. This ebook may not be re-sold or given away to
other people.

 

 

 

 

Dedication

 

To my own cowboy, Paul

 

 

One

 

“Shhhaaay.”

The voice whispered across the air, nudging Shay
Brennan awake.

“Who’s there?” she mumbled groggily, while rolling
onto her side. The springs of the old iron bed squeaked under her weight. The
voice came again, soft, lilting in her ear.

“Shhhaaay.”

Fingernails stroked her jaw. A palm caressed her
cheek. As her eyes popped open, Shay jolted up and bumped the back of her head
on the bars of the headboard. Her spine grew rigid.  She scooted to a sitting
position and glanced around the room, clutching the downy pillow to her chest.

With her thoughts scattered and fuzzy, it took a
moment for her to remember that it was her first night sleeping in the Buckhorn
Saloon, an 1885 establishment located in the historic section of town on the
original Main Street. She’d walked past it a week ago. Having seen a
For
Sale
sign in the window, she’d made an offer on a whim and closed on the
legendary South Dakota property this afternoon.

“Who’s there?” she repeated.  She touched her cheek
and blinked several times as her eyes adjusted to the darkness of the bedroom.
Goosebumps prickled her arms, and a chill crept across her nape. A sliver of
moonlight shone through the thin curtains hanging at the window she realized
she’d forgotten to close before retiring.

“Shay.” The voice spoke clear and strong this time
and with more force.

Shay’s attention flew to the foot of the bed, where
a gray mist began to take shape. Her heart lodged in her throat.  Barely able
to breathe, her body began to quake. She bit back a scream when the unearthly
figure of a female materialized.

“Help . . . me,” the woman whispered, outstretching
an ethereal arm.

With her back pressed against the headboard and
completely awake now, all of Shay’s senses were acutely alert. Fully formed,
the body looked solid, like a live human being. But she knew that couldn’t be
possible. She’d locked her door. She would have heard the hundred-year-old wood
creak open if someone had tried to come inside. Sneaking a glance at the door,
she saw that the old fashioned skeleton key was still in the keyhole.

I must be dreaming.

The face staring back at her was pale and not of
this earth.
She looks like a…
“There’s no such thing as ghosts,”
she
said aloud
.
The phantom searched her face with piercing blue eyes that
seemed to peer into the depths of Shay’s soul.

“Who are you?” she finally whispered, when she
realized the vision was not going away. Her fingers splayed over her heart, and
she could almost feel the organ jumping inside her chest.

Noting the white petticoat and V-shaped corset that
closed in the front with ribbon ties, the woman appeared to be dressed in
Victorian undergarments. Her hair was blonde and piled on top of her head with
long curls streaming down her back. And those eyes… They were as vivid as any
Shay had ever seen.

The woman touched her neck with delicate fingers and
began to softly moan. With her face twisting in pain, the moans eerily engulfed
the bedroom to send ice-cold shivers racing down Shay’s spine. Within moments,
the moaning turned to weeping.  The cries were so distressing and full of
sadness that Shay suddenly felt overwhelmed by a deep depression and an odd
sense of regret.

“Help…me,” the figure pleaded again.

Shay loosened the death grip on her pillow. “How can
I help? Who are you?”

It was then that she noticed the black and blue
marks on the woman’s neck. Her gaze moved again to those beseeching eyes, and
without warning, Shay’s throat closed up. It felt like she was being choked.
Invisible hands seemed to be wrapped around her neck and frigid fingers pressed
into her flesh, making it a struggle to breathe. The pressure on her throat was
intense for a few seconds before it let up.

Coughing, Shay gasped for air.  When she looked up
again, the woman had disappeared.

“What just happened?” She stroked her sore neck with
trembling hands.  She’d barely had time to process what had just transpired
when an urgent knocking came from downstairs. Was
that
the sound of
the ancient oil furnace kicking on? She angled her head and
listened carefully while inhaling deeply in order to will her skipping
heartbeat back into rhythm.

It sounded more like someone pounding on the front
door. Squinting at the clock on the bedside table, Shay swore under her breath.
“Who would be at my door at midnight?”

The rapping stopped. But after a moment’s respite,
it started up again.

She flipped on the table lamp, swung her legs off
the bed, and threw on some jeans and shimmied into a t-shirt. The plank floor
was cold on her bare feet. A chill nipped the air as she unlocked the bedroom
door and stepped into the hallway and switched on the light. The pounding
continued as she eased down the oak staircase.  Craning her neck over her
shoulder, she got the uncomfortable feeling that someone was watching her.

“I’m coming!” she shouted while striding across the
hardwood, weaving between the round gaming tables original to the saloon, and
past the long paneled mahogany bar, which was polished to a splendid shine.
Turning her head, she jumped when she caught her reflection in the large gilded
mirror above the bar. Her body jerked a second time when her gaze flew up and
met the glassy eyes of a stuffed elk head hanging over the mirror.

The thought of a stranger pounding on her door at
this hour sped up the pulse of her heart more than it was already racing. Could
it be a drunkard at the wrong place? The cops? Stopping at the front door, she
hollered through the wood, “Who’s there?”

The knocking halted. It was an indecent hour to be
calling on a person. Someone had better be dead, she thought crossly. Tossing a
glance back up the stairs, she realized the pun she’d made. She had the
distinct feeling someone
was
dead. Very dead.

“It’s Colt Morgan,” came the voice from the other
side of the door.

Colt Morgan?
The real estate
broker? Shay peeked out from behind the heavy maroon curtain covering the
glass-paneled door.

Sure enough, there stood the man who had been the
listing agent on the property—a tall drink of water in a cowboy hat.

Two

 

Shay unlocked the door and a cool breeze swept in.
Her head tilted in confusion.  “Yes?  Can I help you?” It felt like a cloud had
settled over her brain. Had she really just seen a ghost in her room? And why
was this handsome man standing at her door at midnight?

Despite the early hour, Colt Morgan’s green eyes
sparkled beneath his brown Stetson. As if suddenly remembering his manners, he
jerked the hat off his head to uncover sandy-colored hair and held the hat at
his chest.

“Sorry to bother you, Miss Brennan,” he drawled,
shifting from one foot to the other.

“Please. You can call me Shay.”  She’d noted his
soft-spoken accent earlier in the day, as well as the smile that lit up his
tanned face.

He nodded and repeated, “Okay, Shay.”

“It’s pretty late, Mr. Morgan. What can I do for
you?” The man’s rugged attractiveness nearly took her breath away, even at this
hour, under the dim glow of her porch light. But she couldn’t fathom why he was
bothering her at this ungodly time of night.

Today at the closing, she’d caught herself staring
at his handsome face, thinking he reminded her of someone, but she couldn’t put
her finger on who. It hadn’t been until later when she was having dinner alone
that it occurred to her. He looked like George Strait, the country singer. He
had the same strong jaw, twinkling eyes, and crooked grin. She didn’t know much
about country music, but she’d seen a concert poster of the singer somewhere,
not long ago, when she’d been on the move. Where had it been? Iowa? Nebraska?

Snapping back from her musings, Shay realized she
probably looked a sight and suddenly felt self-conscious. She wasn’t wearing
any makeup, or a bra under the t-shirt. No doubt, her long hair was messed up
from restless tossing and turning in bed; the way she slept most nights.

“You can call me Colt, ma’am,” he said.

“All right. Now that we have the introductions made,
Colt, would you mind telling me why you’re standing at my door at midnight?”

“Of course.” He cleared his throat. “Someone walking
past the saloon a while ago claimed to see water running under the door here.” They
both glanced down at the same time. “This fellow said he knew I was the agent
who’d listed the place, so that’s the reason he called me. I thought I’d better
come check it out.”

Colt stared at the ground again and then scratched
his head. “The ground isn’t even wet. I don’t see any traces of water.”

“That’s because there are none,” she said, wondering
what was really going on. She didn’t like pranks being pulled on her,
especially at this hour by men she didn’t know.

He sighed and seemed embarrassed and confused. “I
guess it was a false alarm.”

“Guess so.” His eyes were hypnotic, but she refused
to be drawn into them. She’d had enough of men and their lying, manipulative
ways to last a lifetime—even the good-looking ones.

“So, is everything else okay over here?” He peered
around her shoulder into the dimly lit room behind her.

“What could be wrong? I don’t understand.”

He raked a hand through his hair. “Well, this might
sound crazy, but that same man told me he saw something in your window.  Were
you standing in your window by some chance?”

“No.  I’ve been in bed asleep.  What did he see?”
The vision of the woman replayed through her mind.

After a moment’s hesitation, Colt chuckled. “Ah,
never mind. The guy might have been drunk and was imagining things. Come to
think of it, his voice did sound slurred.” He chewed his lower lip for a
moment.  “Forget I mentioned anything.”

Shay wondered if this “drunkard” had seen the spirit
who had appeared in her room. Maybe he’d seen a shadow from down on the street.
It crossed her mind to tell Colt about the woman, but then thought better of
it. He’d probably think she was insane. Or plastered like the guy who’d called
him. Besides, maybe she’d imagined the whole thing. There weren’t any such
things as ghosts.

“So, you’re okay?” Colt repeated, plopping his hat
back on.

“Yes, I’m fine. I appreciate your coming over in the
middle of the night. That was neighborly of you.” Even though the story seemed
suspicious, there was no need for her to be rude.

He grinned, and the awkward tension between them
dissolved. “Just taking care of my client, Shay. That’s my job. But you’re
welcome. Is that lock strong?” He referred to her front door lock, which he
jiggled.

BOOK: A Haunted Twist of Fate
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