Coming Soon — The Deadly Seance, A Gooden and Knight Mystery: Case File #2

Last night, I uploaded the final, edited version of  my second Abbie and Luc book, The Deadly Seance.  For those of you who first read about Abbie and Luc and the gang back in 2005 in The Case of The Virtuous Vampire (released in e-book and print by LTDBooks, Canada, which went out of business at the end of 2005), this has been a long time coming.  For those of you who read The Virtuous Vampire, released more recently in e-book only by my current publisher, Liquid Silver Books, not so much time has passed.

But all of you are the reason this book is now finished — and I said so in the Dedication.  I hope you like it.  I know I enjoyed writing it.

The book should be coming out soon (just heard, February 14th!) — so keep an eye here and at Liquid Silver Books for the actual release date.  Until then, here is the blurb and a short excerpt to tide you over.

BLURB:

Abigail Gooden’s Uncle Vidal is in love. His soon-to-be bride, Ariana Huntingdon, has asked him to perform a séance. Its purpose is twofold: to obtain Ari’s deceased husband’s blessing for the nuptials and to get his advice about some much needed tough love for their three adult children. Before Vidal can perform the séance, Ari dies in his arms–and it’s definitely murder.

One of the five people in the room did it. Was it one of the spoiled children whose allowances were to be cut off? Was it Ari’s long-suffering, poor-relation secretary, Rose Connors? Or was it the butler, Simmons?

Abbie and Luc barely begin to investigate Ari’s death before another murder occurs. With ties connecting the current deaths to two previous ones and danger from Abbie’s past stalking them, it will take all their smarts plus help from their friends and a whole lot of magic to figure out whodunit before the killer strikes again.

EXCERPT:

Chapter One

Sunday evening, Ariana Huntingdon’s Mansion on Lake Austin

“Take your seats, please.”

Vidal Storm sipped his brandy as Ariana Huntingdon called her guests to the table. The shuffling of feet and low murmured conversations washed over him as the five other people in the room gradually made their way toward the recently cleared dining room table. He and Ari had already taken their places in preparation for the séance he was about to conduct.

“Mother, darling!” Lisa Huntingdon, Ari and Al’s youngest child and only daughter, paused by her mother’s chair on the way to her seat opposite Vidal. The blonde leaned over, air-kissed Ari then fussed with the collar of her mother’s dress. A charm on her bracelet caught on her mother’s dress and it took several seconds to extract it from the fabric.

The differences between mother and daughter were wider than the Great Divide was long. Where Ari was dressed in the height of understated elegance in pale crème silk with pearls and her wedding ring as her only jewels, Lisa looked like a bad advertisement for a haute couture ad–skin-tight, barely there dress, hair extensions down to her butt, Cleopatra-lined eyes and red glossy lips, and large, gaudy pieces of jewelry on every finger, both wrists, and around her neck. The light from the crystal chandelier bounced off Lisa’s jewel-adorned body like sunlight off a lake.

Vidal blinked to clear the streaks of light flashing across his vision.

Lisa drawled, “What a fab idea for a dinner party. Will Vidal be performing magic tricks, too? I do so love tricks.” She licked her collagen-ballooned lips while her feverish, dilated gaze roamed over him as if he were a prime cut of Texas beef.

If Lisa was attempting to flirt, her slurred words, from either drugs or drink–or both–foiled her delivery. Her lascivious glance only made him desire a cleansing shower. Ari’s daughter was one sick little bitch.

“Behave, Lisa.” Ari’s cerulean eyes sparked with anger. “Vidal is a very special guest, my guest, and you’ll treat him accordingly.”

“That’s right, sister dear. Don’t poach your mother’s lover.” Todd, a fair-haired Adonis and the eldest of the children, braced a hand on the back of his mother’s chair. He brushed some hair off his mother’s face. She flinched as he leaned over to air kiss her cheek. “After all, she could cut you off without one red cent and then where would you be with all your business ventures, hmm?”

“Shut up, Todd.” Lisa shot him a narrow-eyed, ugly look. “As if you know anything at all about how to run a business. Any business.” Her emphasis on “any” caused Todd’s lips to thin.

Vidal could almost see the steam coming out of the man’s ears. He wondered what specific nerve Lisa had hit and if the dig had anything to do with what Ari planned to do this evening.

Randy, the third of the Huntingdon brood and a shorter version of Todd’s blond good looks, snorted. “She’s got you there, bro.” The younger son elbowed his brother out of the way then patted his mother’s back. “Great party, Mother. But just why are we here?” He waved an unsteady hand at the room. Alcohol or drugs, Vidal wondered.

The undercurrents in the room had grown from merely uncomfortable and awkward to downright murky and dangerous. Vidal’s preternatural senses scented the acrid odor of fear in the room–underlain with anger. No, not mere anger, but a cold, dangerous rage honed to a lethally sharp edge. His gut clenched with apprehension and foreboding. Somehow, the children had found out exactly why they were here–and one or maybe all of them were furious.

His eyes narrowed as he singled out each child, but he couldn’t discern from whom the strong emotions emanated. The gods knew his empathic abilities had never been that accurate beyond a general knowing. Damn, he should’ve gone with his gut and invited his sister Ilana and her daughter Abbie. As female witches, their empathic bridge to humans was stronger than his. But he’d ignored his instincts and now regretted it.

“You’ll see, Randy,” Ari answered. “Now take your seats so Vidal can get started.” She waved the children away, the diamonds of her wedding ring refracting the light from the chandelier and casting mini-rainbows about the room.

Moving through the mini-Aurora borealis created by Ari’s rings and the dancing crystals of the light fixture, Rose Connors approached them. “I’ve brought you a wrap, Ariana. It’s chilly in here.”

Vidal shook his head. He blinked to clear his vision as Rose, Ari’s social secretary and poor country cousin, placed a blood-red merino wool shawl across Ari’s shoulders.

“Thank you, my dear. You take such good care of me.” Ari smiled at the plain, pasty-faced mouse of a woman and patted Rose’s hand where it lay on her shoulder. “Ouch. what…?”

“Oh, I’m so sorry, Ariana. My ring has a loose prong. It scratched you.” Rose fluttered about, finally grabbing a napkin to staunch the minor bleeding. She smiled apologetically at Ari and Vidal, then left to take her seat for the séance.

Ari’s cousin was awfully nervous. He had been present earlier when Ari had informed Rose and the butler Simmons of the dual reasons for the séance. Had one of them had told the children? Most likely. On the day Ari had asked him to perform the séance to consult with her dead husband, he’d advised her not to inform the children what she’d planned. Her children had made bad choices, committed bad acts–and Ari planned to deliver some tough love with the hope of forcing them to correct the error of their ways before it was too late. He didn’t know what the children had done to force Ari to take the drastic measures. She’d only shared that her children’s actions could be considered criminal.

“Refill, madam?” Simmons stood off to Ari’s side, the decanter of brandy in his hand.

At Ari’s subtle nod, Simmons leaned over and refilled her glass. As he did, he brushed her shoulder. “Sorry, Madam.” He then moved about the table refreshing the other’s drinks.

Vidal turned his head and smiled at Ari. He leaned closer and whispered against her sweetly scented cheek. “Are you ready, darling?”

She moved into his lips, allowing them to brush her skin. “Yes.” With a hitch in her breathing, she gasped and her eyes widened. She coughed then reached for her brandy. Taking a small sip, she exhaled on a soft, trembling sigh.

“Ari, are you okay?” He rubbed her back as he searched her face. Her eyes had a glazed look, as if she were ill or in pain. She looked … frail.

“Yes. It’s just stress…” She stroked his cheek. “It’s very cool in here all of a sudden.” She pulled the shawl more closely around her body. “Is Al here already?”

“Not yet, my love.” He kissed her lightly on her pale, too-cool cheek. Her skin was clammy. “Don’t worry so. Al was a close friend of mine–and he loved you. He wouldn’t want you to be alone for the rest of your life. He’ll bless our marriage. And as for the children… well, I’ll be here to help you get through whatever needs to be done.”

She drew his face to hers until their foreheads touched, her fingers icy against his cheeks.  “I love you, Vidal.”

A muffled cough. A tittering of laughter. A shocked “Mother!” from one of the boys reminded him that five pairs of eyes observed them. The cold rage he’d smelled earlier grew even icier, more threatening.

Vidal mouthed “I love you, too” as his senses once again ranged in search of the source or sources of the anger. This time, he found it on the three children’s faces and even in the not-so-blank stares of the perfect servants. Now he was positive. The children knew about his proposal of marriage to Ari and her plan for monetary tough love. After tonight, the Huntingdon children would have to learn to live on less than fifty percent of their trust income, still a large amount of money for most people, but for them it would seem like the Great Depression.

No use prolonging the evening. Ari was not well, no matter what she said. “Join hands, please.”

Ari’s fingers trembled in his. Her breathing had become more erratic. “Vidal…” She gasped and grabbed her throat. “I … can’t … breathe.”

“Ari! Darling?” He gathered her falling body into his arms, shoving her chair out from under her with a foot, then laid her gently on the floor. As he loosened her dress away from her neck, he snapped out orders. “Simmons, call 911. Rose, get me a cool wet cloth. The rest of you–stay back. She needs air.”

As he attempted to save the woman he loved, he sensed Al reaching for him from the other side. Opening his mind to the Otherworld, he muttered his communing spell to complete the link.

Vidal! Ari was poisoned. One of them killed her.

She isn’t dead yet. But even as he gave her CPR, he sensed her life essence slipping away.

I’m sorry, Vidal … but she comes to me.

How do you know this is murder?

Because the same one killed me. Be strong, Vidal. Avenge us, my friend! I want your niece and Luc to find our killers. Al’s spirit hovered over them. Love shone from his eyes like light from the sun. Come to me, my little Ari. I’ve waited so long to be with you once again.

Ari’s spirit rose from her lifeless body, her soul blazing with white light as she grasped Al’s hand.

Ari! Stay with me.

I can’t, my love. Avenge us.

“Sir, let us in please.” A paramedic stood behind Vidal, ready to take over resuscitation efforts. As he moved back to let the professionals do their life-saving jobs, he knew it was too late. Ari’s spirit had joined Al’s in the Otherworld and was not coming back. Even now, Al and Ari watched as the medical personnel worked over her mortal remains.

Vidal turned away, unable to watch the cold brutality of the futile attempts. The paramedics swore at their inability to resuscitate her. Amid the scents of the first responders’ frustration and failure, the underlying smell of anger from the séance attendees was replaced by smug satisfaction. Vidal’s was the only aura of sorrow in the room. No one mourned Ari’s death but him.

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~ by Monette Michaels on February 8, 2011.

 
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