Pumpkins & Poltergeists
I see dead people…and now one’s haunting me.
Aunt Willa summons me home to Thornhollow with a cryptic message about using my ‘gift’ to stop a family curse and save the town. Hours later, she’s dead down by the creek and Mama swears she heard her arguing with someone before it happened.
When I arrive, my clumsiness brings about a near-death experience, and suddenly, I’m seeing and hearing ghosts everywhere. Even Aunt Willa’s cat is talking to me.
Uncovering the truth behind the family curse is hard enough, but my gift makes me a target for an angry ghost who’s trying to ruin the biggest event Thornhollow has ever seen…and she’ll stop at nothing to do it.
I’m convinced my aunt’s death was no accident, and if I don’t acknowledge the fact ghosts are real and I can commune with them, I may never discover who murdered her…or stop the deadly poltergeist now haunting me.
First in a new series by Nyx Halliwell! Don't miss out on Ava's adventures as she returns to her small hometown of Thornhollow, Georgia, where mystery, murder, romance, and a little bit of down home Southern cooking are always on tap.
Series info: Avalon Fantome sees ghosts, but lordy, she wishes she didn’t! Returning to her family home in Georgia after her Aunt Willa is murdered, she must take charge of her aunt’s event planning business, live with a shape-shifting cat, cope with small town secrets, and deal with poltergeists, cursed objects, and malevolent spirits…and then there are the townsfolk who don’t want her messing in their affairs. It all adds up to magic, murder, laughter and love.
Books in the series:
Pumpkins & Poltergeists, Confessions of a Closet Medium, Book 1
Magic & Mistletoe, Confessions of a Closet Medium, Book 2
Hearts & Haunts, Confessions of a Closet Medium, Book 3
The summons to “come home” to Thornhollow arrives on a cloudy, drizzly day in October.
These types of missives normally come from Mama, but the scented lavender envelope is addressed to me in my Aunt Wilhelmina Rae’s handwriting.
In her sixties, she is a spitfire of a woman, and her wild penmanship is beautiful in its bold strokes. I can almost hear her voice as I tap the envelope on the table and wonder what’s inside.
It’s been a long day at the bridal salon and my feet are killing me. Setting the rest of the mail on the table, I turn the tea kettle on. Then I kick off my high heels and rub my toes.
Arthur and Lancelot, my gray tabbies, emerge from their hiding places to greet me with meows and chin rubs against my bare calves. I scratch each behind his ears, fill their bowls with kibble, and shrug off my sweater, hanging the damp garment on the back of a chair to dry.
As the water heats, I head to my bedroom to shed my business attire and replace it with my favorite flannel pajamas. There’s no one but me and the cats, and they don’t care if I’m in my comfy clothes at six o’clock on a Friday night.
Back in the kitchen, I absentmindedly tie my fuzzy robe around me and make a cup of mint tea. A slice of leftover pizza calls to me from the fridge, and I settle down with both to sort through the bills and junk mail. Once again my eye catches on the lavender envelope. Mama has no doubt recruited her sister to convince me to move back home.
Being an executive bridal consultant at Southern Bridal Flair Salon pays well and I enjoy the work, but every once in a while I wish I’d followed my dream to be a wedding dress designer. To live and work out of my aunt’s old Victorian house with its warm woodwork and welcoming open rooms. I long thought I’d one day become a partner in her event planning business, The Wedding Chapel.
Running my finger over the edge of the envelope, I feel the tug to return to Thornhollow and the comfort of my childhood. I have good memories there, but also the pressure to live up to my mother’s political and social aspirations. At least here in Atlanta, I’m surrounded by designer and couture dresses every day and not plagued by small-town gossip. Maybe one day I’ll get up the courage to show Darinda, my boss and the owner of the entire Southern Bridal Flair chain of stores, my sketches.
The scent of Aunt Willa’s perfume drifts up from the stationary as I tear open the envelope and slide out her letter.
The Wedding Chapel is embossed in flourishes at the top, with her business address, phone number and website underneath. Merely adding a website this year created enough drama with her that I nearly let it go. But convincing her to move into the modern age and reach beyond Thornhollow for customers was a good step. She’s already increased business ten percent since I set up the website in April.
Her Southern graces are evident even in her penmanship.
My Dearest Avalon, I’m afraid it’s time for you to return home. Danger is afoot. Innocent people are getting hurt.
I sip my tea and frown, rereading those words before continuing. What danger could there be in our sleepy town?
I’ve done my best to protect our family and Thornhollow from the curse, but I’m afraid I cannot do it on my own for much longer. It’s time for you to stop pretending you’re normal and use your gifts in the way in which the universe intended.
All my love, Aunt Willa.
Perhaps it’s the shadows of the evening closing in or the quiet of my apartment, but I find myself pulling my robe a little closer. While I scrutinize the letter several more times, it doesn’t make her message any clearer. What danger? A curse? Why has she been protecting the family and the town from it? What gifts of mine is she referring to?
Okay, I know that answer, but no way I’m delving into the ghost world.
Most importantly, why the heck didn’t she just call me?
I sip tea, rub my temples, and feel a smidge of frustration at the cryptic note. She and Mama have a definite flair for melodrama.
In the foyer, I dig my cell out of my purse and see that I’ve missed a call from my mother. My tired frustration vanishes for a second. Protecting the family. Is our family actually in danger? From what exactly?
My mother is mayor of Thornhollow, and while she’s had her share of people who dislike her politics, she’s on friendly terms with everyone. Plus, she typically calls me twice a day, so seeing a missed call from her shouldn’t trigger panic.
It does. I carry the phone back to the kitchen and plunk it on the table, debating whether to jump into my family’s craziness again or not. It’s one of the reasons I had to leave Thornhollow—they were making me crazy, too.
Aunt Willa is probably the least crazy of any of them, even though my mother claims the opposite. “Willa Rae is vexed,” she used to proclaim. She then would spin her finger around her temple indicating mental instability. “You can’t believe a thing she says.”
I resume my seat, finish off the pizza, and open the rest of the mail. The kitchen grows dim, and I get up to turn on the light.
When I flick the switch nothing happens. The kitchen stays steeped in darkness. That’s when I realize the lighted numbers of the microwave clock are out, and the living room ceiling fan has stopped spinning.
Stupid wiring. I’ve complained to the landlord multiple times about the fluky electricity, as well as the plumbing that bangs and rattles at all hours of the day and night. The house is a hundred years old and some of that is to be expected, I guess, but it’s extremely frustrating when this stuff happens.
I reach for the phone and feel a breeze pass over my hand. Aunt Willa’s letter sails off the table, the breeze rocking it gently back and forth, like a leaf falling form a tree, before it lands on the floor.
Goosebumps race over my skin. Pressure and a high-pitched ringing starts in my ears. I look around for the cats, but they’ve disappeared.
The voice sounds like it’s right behind me. I whirl but see nothing except shadows.
Shaking my head, I pick up the letter, returning it to the table. As I reach for my phone, it rings, the sound blaring in the kitchen and startling me.
It’s my mother again. “Hi, Mama,” I answer, forcing a deep, calming breath. “I just got home from work. Can I call you back in a few minutes?”
I swear I feel that breeze tickle the back of my neck. My gaze falls on the letter and the words danger is afoot.
“Oh, Ava,” Mama sobs, her voice shaking with tears. “You have to come home.”
The hair on the back of my neck shoots straight up. “What happened?”
Another choked sob. An audible intake of breath. “Willa Rae is dead.”
Chapter 2 coming next week!