writing

The Lurkers Within tease…

I have ANOTHER book release coming up in just a few days. ACK!! So, I thought it would be fun to share a little bit from the first chapter. This is a novella that I wrote for the Havenwood Falls line. But don’t despair! If you have never read anything from Havenwood Falls, that doesn’t mean you can’t read this one. Each story is meant to be a stand-alone (there are a few sequels in the mix, but this isn’t one of them.) It is my first solo effort onto the world of fantasy (I always relied on Amy Miles to help me figure things out for our Hallowed Realms Trilogy.)

This short novella (about 100 pages) is WAY outside my comfort zone and not my norm at all, so hopefully, you will like it. You can read the full manuscript on release day, Nov. 30. Without further ado…I give you Chapter 1…

Chapter 1

“Want me to take point?” Adam asked. His trap was raised high, like you might raise a gun going into a drug bust. His muscles flexed, showing delicious chocolate biceps. There were no two ways about it—that man was fine, but also not on my radar. Poor boy wanted some quaint Christian girl. That’s definitely not me.

“No need,” I said. “It’s only a Class C spirit. It’s not going anywhere.”

Generally speaking, Class C spirits were harmless and confined to the places where they died, unless they were way older than this dipshit ghost, who chose to spend his afterlife tormenting a politician. We had him right where we wanted.

I was the last thing a pissed off ghost wanted to see, for good reason, too. I was the best spirit agent around. When a spirit felt me walk into a room, they knew their time was up. What can I say? I was infamous for being a bitch in both the human and spiritual realms. I wouldn’t apologize for my skills. Or for being the best in my field. I was paid quite well by the feds for handling these “classified” cases. My job was simple: enter a haunted house, remove the misbehaving spirit, collect the cash, and move on to the next city. The world was none the wiser as to just how many ghosts they walked the earth with. Most were harmless. I only went after the ones that became a problem.

My team was called in this morning to remove a less-than-friendly Casper. This one was trapped in the attic. In a matter of minutes, the job would be over, and I could go back to the hotel, where I planned to sink into their hot tub. It really was the world’s easiest job.

More often than not, I got assigned a Class B spirit. Those assholes became strong enough to emit sounds but were mostly harmless. Sure, I might end up with a scratch or two from the older ones, but those went away by the end of a day. Because they were so powerless, demonic spirits specialized in the psychological mind-game damage they could do to the humans they’d been forced to live with. This type of auras wrongly blamed humans for the reasons they were trapped between realms. These were the douchebags I specialized in. Grumpy spirits who liked to bite. That didn’t scare me. I was into the rough stuff.

“Room is clear. Waiting on your call, Agent Young,” the voice in my headpiece said. Ah, Winston was on today’s mission. How wonderful. He was scared shitless of me. As he should have been.

“We go in when I say we go in, Winston.”

Winston bumbled an apology, and I focused back on the door.

Beside me, Adam and my other team member, Eduardo, were all business, their traps poised and ready. They were so serious on these missions. For them, I imagined, this was pretty scary shit. Going up against a spirit wasn’t as simple for them, mostly because they couldn’t see them the way I could. The imagination was always worse than reality when it came to fear. I could see what I was after, so ghosts didn’t frighten me in the least. The rest of the world was less fortunate.

To be clear, I couldn’t see a ghost in the same way I could see a human. Spirits were not of this realm anymore, and therefore didn’t hold the same shape as living, breathing humans. Instead, I saw the fragments of what was left of them—their auras. Their souls. It was sort of like looking at humans with heat-seeking glasses. A blob of pulsing energy. It wasn’t crystal clear, but it was enough to be able to aim a trap accurately.

This baddie in the attic would be a cake walk. Normally, I wouldn’t be called in for such an easy bag and tag but when this spirit took up residency at a VIP’s place, my team was called in by the feds. Of course, if the FBI was asked about its Soul Searcher program and my place on it, it would deny any and all knowledge of me and the other spirit agents. Such was the risk of a confidential job. I was like a ghost myself. Now you see me, now you don’t.

Only a few dozen teams like mine existed around the world, though most of them didn’t have a team member like me. They had to rely on malfunctioning gadgets and incompetent tech to bring a spirit down. They didn’t actually remove the spirit permanently. They simply pushed them somewhere else, but that wasn’t my concern.

There were only five of us that the feds had in their employment who were also Recoverers. There were likely dozens more, but none of them wanted to be controlled by the bureaucracy. I didn’t mind. It paid well. Being a Recoverer was another special skill of mine. I could bring back the recently crossed over. Well, I could bring them back if I could get to them within a few hours. I couldn’t bring back anyone long dead like Elvis or Prince, though I totally would if I could.

Hell, a lot of those “near-death experiences” you read about? Nine times out of ten, it wasn’t a miracle. It was a Recoverer sent to bring the soul back to the human realm. These souls weren’t fully dead. They were stuck in the spirit realm and hadn’t officially crossed over. Like purgatory, I guess. We snatched them out of the waiting rooms of death to live another day. I’d like to say why we brought back who we did had to do with noble reasons like true love, or they had the formula to cure cancer, or some shit like that, but it was usually because they owed money to the mob or were a family member of someone important. The feds charged a pretty penny for a recovery and only those with power could pay it.

I was recovering more souls than I trapped these days. It’s like all the Recoverers decided to go on vacation at the same time. Lazy fuckers. No one had a strong work ethic anymore. But that was just fine by me. I’d happily take their fees.

Just then, Eduardo lifted his trap as he winked at me. Unlike Adam, he got off on this part of the gig. He knew the men on this team were there only for show. I was the star, and he liked seeing me in action. Well, Eduardo liked seeing every aspect of me.

I don’t say I was the star player merely because of my ability to see the spirits and bring back the dead, though those were pretty kick-ass skills. No, I was the leader of the team because I was the only one who could actually use the trap properly. I don’t know if they were just slow on the trigger, aimed wrong, if their guns weren’t calibrated right, or what. Whatever the reason, whatever the job, my traps were the only ones that took the spirits down. Adam and Eduardo were basically my backup dancers. I didn’t need them at my side, but it sure made an intimidating picture to the spirit.

Nodding, I gave Adam the signal to kick down the attic door. Did we need to break the door to get to the spirit? Hell no. Breaking shit was for the politician’s benefit. Might as well make him believe it was harder than it looked, right? Smoke and mirrors. That’s all ghost hunting and politics were, after all.

Adam went in first, followed by Eduardo. Each of them shouted for the ghost to show itself. This was really quite a ridiculous thing to say to a ghost, especially with me on the job, but it made them feel useful and masculine to yell.

The ghost was there, plain as day to me. Eduardo and Adam watched my face to follow where I was looking, so they would know where to aim their traps. Usually, I had to walk around to find the thing cowering in a corner, but this spirit was hovering right in front of me. Almost as if it wanted to be found. In fact, I swear it cocked its head when it saw me.

“Why, hello,” I said with a smirk.

Adam and Eduardo raised their traps to where I was focused, but my trap remained at my side as I studied the boldness of the spirit. This was unusual behavior for a spirit. They were typically more skittish when they knew their time was up. Color me intrigued.

“Fire?” Adam whispered when I stalled the command.

“Not yet. I need to check on one thing first,” I said, tapping against my earpiece. My eyes never left the aura. Though I couldn’t see actual eyes, I had the sneaking suspicion its focus was directly on me as well.

“Go ahead, Agent Young,” Winston said in my earpiece.

“Is my room ready at the Ritz?”

“Yes. I have booked a king bed, just like you asked.”

“Good,” I purred. “Eduardo and I plan on making good use of it later.” There was a silence on the other end of the com, which assured me I had made poor Winston blush. I knew full well all our conversations during missions were recorded. I didn’t say such things to torment Winston, but to annoy my commanding officer, Agent Duncan. He didn’t care for the fact that Eduardo and I were screwing around. It was jealousy, pure and simple. They all got that way when I tired of them.

“I suppose it’s time to trap this spirit and go play, eh, Eduardo?” I whispered into his ear.

His lips curled into a mischievous smile for a half a second, but then he refocused on the mission, like a good boy.

I lifted my trap in one fluid movement, waiting for the spirit to make a run for it, but it didn’t move. It held its ground in front of me. Smart spirit. It would have been wasted energy trying to escape from me.

“Your time is coming,” the female-sounding spirit said, though only I could hear it. I raised my eyebrows, impressed in spite of myself. They normally couldn’t communicate. It took too much energy. Those four words likely drained her completely. She was easy prey now. Not that she wasn’t before.

“Yeah, yeah, we all meet our maker soon enough. Right now, though, it’s your turn,” I said, before walking right up to her. I pointed the gun to where her head was and pulled the trigger. My wrist singed a bit from the kickback of the gun, but it was a small price to pay.

“Target acquired.”

I handed the trap to Adam, who held onto it like it was worth more than gold. Spirits fascinated him. He longed to be able to see them as I did. He always took meticulous notes after each capture, begging me to describe each spirit in as much detail as possible. Apparently, saying it looked like colored smoke wasn’t enough for him. I wished he could see an aura, just once, so he’d get off my back about them.

Eduardo was less professional about the completion of our mission and opted to grab my ass instead. He pulled me close for a congratulatory kiss. I wasn’t about to object. That man knew how to use his tongue.

“Get a room,” Adam groaned. Eduardo and I did this sort of thing all the time, so you’d think he’d be used to it by now, but his prudish ways always left me feeling a little dirty. In the good way. “Great idea,” I said. I’d had enough work for one day. It was well past time to let off some steam. Eduardo was the perfect way to do it, too. We left the attic, arm in arm, leaving all thoughts of the job behind.

THE LURKERS WITHIN (A Havenwood Falls Novella)
Pre-Order Releasing Nov. 30
Amazon US: http://bit.ly/TheLurkersWithin
Amazon UK: http://bit.ly/UKLurkersWithin
iBooks: http://bit.ly/ibooksLurkersWithin
Kobo: http://bit.ly/TLWKobo
Nook: http://bit.ly/TLWNook

Well, there you have it. Stay tuned here and on my social media platforms for more fun and games leading up to release day!

Danielle Bannister, Author and sneak peeker

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