Authors: Melanie James
Table of Contents
Literal Leigh Romance Diaries
Literal Leigh Spin-offs
Gertie’s Paranormal Plantation
Ava & Will
Kara & Dave
Laura & Alan
Jamie & Brad
Ashley & Jeff
Valerie & Greg
A Valentine’s Surprise
A Deadly Obsession
A Valentine’s Surprise - “It was one of the cutest and hottest novellas I've ever read. It's rare to have such a great mix of cute and hot, but this author does it perfectly!” ~ Willow Star Serenity Reviews
A Valentine’s Surprise - “This is one of the best short stories I have read in a long time!” ~ HeadTripping Books
Accidental Leigh - "This book had me laughing out loud so hard and even reminded me of myself at times. A fantastic and quick read." - A Closet Full of Books
Accidental Leigh - "This book is not only well written but gives you the humor, romance and "paranormal" oddities that you want in a book. I absolutely loved this book and with Melanie Jamie's flawless writing you will be drawn in with the characters and what the story has to offer." –
FangTastic - OddityReviews.com
A Valentine’s Surprise - “Kuddos to Melanie James for throwing a good romance our way. I want more!” ~ Jennifer Theriot, Author, Out Of the Box Series
Conjuring Darkness – “Conjuring Darkness captivates your attention right from the start and never let's go. The adventure packed into this supernatural thriller only keeps you on the edge and turning the page. It definitely was one of those books that was hard to put down.” ~ Angela Ford, Author of Closure
Conjuring Darkness – “This book is captivating from the first page, I could not put the book down. I was so surprised by all the twists, turns, the unexpected. I could not wait until I was through each chapter” ~ I Heart Books
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This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, businesses, companies, events, or locales is coincidental.
By Melanie James
Copyright © by Melanie James
Editing: AVC Proofreading
Proofreading: AVC Proofreading
Cover Artist: Dreams to Media
All rights reserved
Published in the United States of America
Claudy Conn – Thank you for being you. I love you more than you know.
Carol Ray – You are amazing and thank you for all you have done for me. I really do not have enough word to express my thanks.
Monkeys – You are all amazing and I love you so much.
Jan & Sri – Thank you for your honesty when I needed it the most. It means more than you know.
Alicia – You are the absolute best. Thank you for being an amazing friend and cleaning everything up for me.
Ron – I’d be lost without you!
To all those that find laughter with Leigh and her band of merry magical misfits. May you gigglesnort until your sides hurt. Seriously, I love you!
This Halloween was going to be particularly memorable, because this was my first Halloween being a real witch
my first Halloween with Hunter. I just didn’t realize we would end up trying to solve the most bizarre and perilous mystery yet.
Season of the Witch
Fall was in the height of its pumpkin flavored and allspice infused splendor. I was on my morning commute, which was a pleasant twenty minute walk. October’s crisp, clean air gave me a pleasant chill, and I smiled with every leaf crunching step. On that particular morning I was joined on my walk to work by Gertie. She pulled me in a zigzag direction to steer us under the largest trees and it added a few minutes to the trip. It’s nice to walk to work with a friend. It’s even better to have one that rivals my enthusiasm for kicking through heaps of leaves.
Gertie was visiting Chicago for a few days to see Brad and to attend my parents’ anniversary shindig the coming weekend. These affairs always seemed to be more like a gathering storm than a joyful reunion of my extended family. My sister, Sarah, my brother-in-law, Ork-Ork-Bill, and the kids would be flying in. Other relatives were also preparing to arrive. I looked forward to it, but I knew my family well enough to plan strategically. My plan was to keep a buffer zone of my best friends around me.
Today was Thursday, and Brad was at the firehouse. Rather than be alone, Gertie wanted to join me in the classroom. I wondered if she truly realized what she asked for. Gertie playfully swatted at a few crimson leaves that fluttered past her face. “This is the most perfect season of all. Do you have your students make a few fall projects?”
“Gertie, my love for fall is reflected in their work. Words cannot describe it. You’ll just have to see for yourself.”
We finally arrived at my classroom. “Oh my God, Leigh! Look at all of these incredible things! Did your students make them all?” Gertie looked into the room, which was a virtual art project cornucopia. It poured out an endless stream of construction paper crafts covering even the corridor walls. I had those kids cranking out fall crafts like they were laboring away in some backwater workshop.
“Oh yeah, and now it’s time for them to shift into overdrive for Halloween.”
I need to digress and talk about my favorite holiday, Halloween. It is custom made for us Americans. On Halloween it’s a perfectly normal thing for us to fill our cozy little homes with the most horrendous schlock. Well, I suppose that could describe just about every day of the year for us. I mean more horrendous than we normally do. You know the kind of stuff I’m talking about. Not the cute pumpkins and ghosts you get at the craft fairs. No, I’m talking about those hideous rubbery zombie things pulled straight out of Hell’s landfill by the devil himself. I don’t have anything against those, but I scare easily. At least I did when I lived alone. I’m forced to stick to the soft stuff. Sometimes I think about the people that produce the most repulsive and frightening Halloween décor. What the hell do they think of us? I can picture two workers in a foreign country having a conversation about what kind of people would actually want a candy bowl that looks like a bloody human skull. That’s America, land of the free and home of the strange.
It was nice having Gertie in the classroom that day. She really was a natural with the kids. Gertie had just read a Halloween story to the students about children who made their own Halloween costumes. We held our post-reading discussion about what sorts of Halloween costumes were in the story. A little boy named Ben brought up an interesting question.
“Miss Epstein, I want to be a monster for Halloween, but I don’t know what monsters are supposed to look like. How do I find out?” he asked.
“I suppose you can pretty much leave it to your imagination. Sometimes monsters are fun characters in our stories, and other times monsters might be a little scarier. You know, there are all kinds of great books in our classroom that have different monsters in them. Would you like to pick one out?” I pointed to the small but handy bookcases filled with age appropriate books.
Ben looked over at our collection of books neatly arranged on two shelves. “Do we have a book with a goddamgolem?”
“A goddamgolem?” It sounded like he was babbling. When talking to kids, sometimes it seems like it is a meeting of two travelers from opposite ends of the globe. I had no idea what Ben was talking about. “No, as a matter of fact, I don’t think we do. Can you tell us what a goddamgolem is?”
“I don’t even know what it is. My Dad was watching the Bears playing the Packers on TV, and he called one of the Packers players a goddamgolem.”
I had no idea what sort of creature Ben was referring to. “What? Say the word slower, please.”
“My daddy said the Bears need a guy like that.” Then little Ben said his words slowly and deliberately. “Daddy said, ‘That guy is a god damn golem.’ So I asked my dad what that meant, and he told me it’s some kind of monster.”
“Oh, okay. Well, first, the creature your dad was talking about is called a golem. The other words are not appropriate words. Your dad must have been really excited by the game and let those words slip out. Remember when we were talking about myths and folklore? A golem is an imaginary creature from Jewish folklore. There are many stories about them. I remember a story about one called the Golem of Prague. In that story, a Rabbi makes a huge creature out of clay. He brings it to life and it does whatever he tells it to do. In the legends that I’ve heard, a golem was used to protect the people of the community and to help them out when times were hard.”
“Like a robot?” Ben asked.
“Sort of, but without the technology, just magic.”
Apparently it was time for me to suffer the teacher’s inquisition. Questions from the semicircle of little bodies overwhelmed me as they were sprayed out in rapid succession. “Are they scary? Are they furry? What color are they? Do they like peanut butter? Can they fly? What’s a Prague?” I huffed out of exasperation, but it wasn’t because of the kids. It was because Gertie was responsible for asking half of the questions.
“Those are all great questions, but we are out of time for our discussion. So this is what I will do. Tomorrow I will bring in a fun Halloween story about a golem that I know you will all enjoy.” Gertie led the group in cheers and applause, which made me a little uncomfortable. I didn’t know if I would even be able to find such a story, I hoped I wouldn’t disappoint them. I just wanted to avoid getting bogged down on a subject that I wasn’t prepared for.
The Two of Hearts
That evening I invited Gertie to stay with me. After all, Brad wasn’t free until the weekend and Hunter was on a rotating shift. It was now his turn to pull a week of the night shift. I’ve been really enjoying these overnight visits with Gertie, it gave us the chance to catch up on the events of our busy enchanted lives.
“Gertie, tell me. What do you see in the future for you and Brad? I know you must think about it, because I find myself thinking about the future with Hunter all the time.”
Gertie smiled and let out a huge sigh. “I wish I knew. I can’t move up here, not with the plantation full of my cats and all the other rescues. It wouldn’t be fair to Randy either. He’s done so much for me. And there is so much going on with Paranormal Chic, not to mention setting up the bed and breakfast.”
“Do you think Brad would ever consider relocating if it gets that serious between you?”
“That’s just it.
that serious. I think it is to him, also, but I could never ask him to leave his job, his sister, his parents. So unless he brings it up on his own, I’m not going to say a word.”
“I see what you mean, but I think if you feel like Brad is the one for you, and you are head over heels in love…well, you really should tell him that. He needs to know how you feel.” Gertie’s gaze was lost in the distance and she smiled. I could tell she was thinking about her love for Brad. “Maybe he is waiting for you to say something. Have you thought that could be the case?”
“Is that what happened with you and Hunter? You just told him how you felt?”
“Yeah, pretty much. Then he told me how he felt, at the time he believed he had completely lost his mind. He thought he was talking to a hallucination, so I’m not sure that counts.” I noticed that Gertie seemed to be deep in thought as I spoke. “Anyway, later on, when he got his head straightened out, we talked some more and he told me how he felt. I know he is in love with me as much as I am in love with him. As a matter of fact, it’s only supposed to be a temporary situation that I suggested for him to stay here. But you know, I haven’t said a word about him looking for a place, and he hasn’t either. As the days go by, we’re growing closer and closer. We are really just that comfortable together.”
“I can’t wait for your wedding! It’s going to be magical.”
“Whoa, Gertie! I never said anything about a wedding.” I took a deep breath and exhaled, wondering if she had lost her damn mind. “Okay, I’m almost afraid to say this out loud, but I’m hoping he will propose to me. I have no idea if Hunter will even propose to me. Or if he does decide to, when he would pop the question. As long as I don’t screw this up, I have to believe that he will ask me sometime in the near future. I’m crossing my fingers. Of course, I could propose to him, but I’ve always dreamt about getting an old fashioned romantic proposal. I want it to be a complete surprise, just like I’ve been fantasizing about since the sixth grade. Silly, isn’t it?” If it would have been almost anyone but one of my best friends, I never would’ve said these words out loud. Now it felt like I had made a public admission of my dreams for the future with Hunter.
“No. It’s not silly at all, and I’m not just saying that. I believe in romance! I’ve thought about the same thing as you, only longer. I just wish I knew for sure…” Gertie’s voice trailed off before she changed the subject. “I liked your classroom. It’s fun. Those kids are almost as fun as a room full of cats!”
“Umm, Gertie? I’ll assume you meant you liked the kids. Right?” When I envisioned a room full of cats swarming me, I didn’t get the
out of it that Gertie did. Yep, only Gertie would pick an analogy like that. “Damn! That reminds me. I promised that I’d have a goddamgolem Halloween story! Where am I going to find one like that on such short notice? There’s an early dismissal tomorrow, too, by the way. We are done at noon.”
“Easy! You make up stories all the time. I bet you could whip one up right now.”
“Hmm, I suppose I could. It can’t be too scary, though. The story needs to be something the kids will enjoy and maybe even learn something. Why don’t you give me a hand with some ideas? It might be fun.”
We chose to write at the kitchen table with notepads and pencils. My desk was the last place I wanted to be when writing a golem story. You might wonder why I write anything at all at that desk anymore, but the fact is, it is like a supernatural magnet. When I write, there seems to be a force that compels me to write there. I could even feel it when we started the story about the golem. I think it helped to have Gertie with me, talking over the story with her distracted me from the desk. Luna joined in on our collaboration and as I’ve learned, it always helps your writing to have a cat around.
As we discussed the folklore of golems, I made a literary comparison to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein. Gertie pointed out something I never considered. “Leigh, do you think we all create our own golem sometimes?”
“What do you mean?”
“Not a real creature, but like my Paranormal Pet Shop is my golem. It’s a really cool project, but it seems like now that it has gotten so busy, it’s starting to control my schedule. I’m just not used to that.”
“Oh, yeah, I know what you mean. Like it has a life of its own now. I felt that way when I was trying to write
Four Bitten Fangtasy
for the witches at the union. It wasn’t mine anymore, I became a servant to my own work. I suppose you’re right, but that’s any job. Why do you bring it up?”
“I guess I’m just thinking about how I wish I could spend more time with Brad.”
“You aren’t thinking about using any witchcraft on him, are you? I know you are! That stuff gives people flashbacks. Just the other day I was talking to my sister, she said her husband, Bill, was giving a presentation in front of a bunch of bigwigs at his job. Just as he brought a chart up on the projection screen, he started yelping out ‘Ork! Ork! Ork!’ and slapping his hands together, then he was back to normal.”
“Ha ha ha! Poor Bill. I hope they got that sorted out.”
“Well, he got a week off to take care of his mental health, but you know what Gertie? We are sitting here and talking about how we both have someone in our lives that we are really happy with. That’s a hell of a lot better place to be than either of us was just a few months ago. Let’s not rush it by sprinkling a bunch of magic on these guys.” Gertie didn’t answer. She stroked Luna’s back and then she smiled at me. I couldn’t let
silent smile slide on by without saying something. “Gertie? I’m serious.”
“Don’t worry, Leigh. I promise not to put a sex hex, a love spell, or use any kind of witchcraft on Brad.” Gertie held her hand up with her index and pinky fingers spread open to create the letter W. “Witch’s honor.”
“Good, and I promise not to do any of those things to Hunter. Witch’s honor.” I made an awkward attempt to imitate Gertie’s hand sign. In the end, I had to settle for just wiggling my fingers.
We went back to tea and the story. “I have a question, Leigh. That little boy Ben asked if the golem was like a robot. I’ve heard the word, but I really had no idea what it meant. So I looked it up. Couldn’t a golem be like a robot? They do seem similar.”
“I suppose they are, in the way that they can both move around and do what they’re told to do or programmed to do. Golems are made with a magic spell. Robots are machines. Plus, robots just aren’t scary or supernatural. They might have been back in the 1920’s or sometime when nobody had an idea of what technology could come up with. Now they’re everywhere. As a matter of fact, I have one.”
“Really? A robot?”
“Yep. A little floor vacuuming robot. It zips around randomly vacuuming up cat hair and dust. Best of all, Luna loves it. Just watch.” I went over to the vacuum’s charging station and turned it on. A small disk shaped machine, the size of a dinner plate, drove itself out into the kitchen. Luna jumped off the table and sat on the robotic vacuum, tall and proud. She calmly rode it around like she was a queen out on a grand survey of her kingdom. “See? She loves it. Luna and I got the idea from watching a video of a cat that does the same thing. It’s not scary at all. Halloween creatures are required to be at least a
“You said the golem comes from Jewish folklore. In those stories, are they made by a magician or do they just somehow happen?” Gertie thought about it. “Last winter I watched a show on TV. It was called
Frosty the Snowman
. I’d have to say Frosty was pretty much a golem.”
“Sort of. Except in the stories, the golems don’t have human traits like emotions. I’ve never heard a story where they lead a parade of singing children through a village. The stories I heard had a golem that worked on a farm or protected the people from a common enemy. I think they are considered a little scary because they can be unpredictable and not especially cute like Frosty. As far as creating a golem, I’m pretty sure they are always created by some wise old rabbi that knew some secret magic. I suppose we could model our story on Frosty. We could start our story with a wise old rabbi that makes a golem. It would have to be a nice helpful one, then it can go off and play with the children. After all, it’s our story. We can tell it the way we want.”
Once we had the premise of our story, we quickly went to work on
My Grandparents’ Runaway Golem.