Title: The Haunting of Aaron House
Author: Joyce Zeller
Genre: Paranormal/Women's Fiction
Excerpt Heat Level: 1
Book Heat Level: 2
Two predatory ghosts terrorize film producer Paul Barlowe, his wife Samantha, and their son Andy when they rent an old farmhouse while Paul shoots a documentary film.
Paul and Samantha Barlowe didn’t believe in ghosts until they stay in a one hundred fifty-year-old farmhouse in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. While Paul is shooting a historical documentary film for the local tourist bureau, they are visited by two evil ghosts in need of a human couple to grow even stronger. The Barlowes become caught up in ancient folklore and the supernatural, putting their lives in danger. They seek the help of a local “Pow Wow” woman who can cast an ancient spell that will free them.
The familiar darkness grew around Samantha; the same dream, repeated nightly, but never during the day. No. Not during the day. It isn't possible.
"Dreams don't come while you're awake." She tried hard to convince herself and stave off the encroaching darkness. Always the same, an old farmhouse with a maze of dark rooms. Determined, she clenched her teeth and fought the blackness, willing it to go away, but it engulfed her.
Her gut spasmed on the sweet, coppery taste of blood. Desperately she gripped the edge of the kitchen sink, swallowing convulsively to keep her stomach still.
"I will beat this. I am not going crazy. Somewhere there is an explanation. It has to be stress, or nerves, or something," she said out loud, trying to convince herself.
The phone rang. The blackness vanished. Thank God. A call this early had to be Irene, but she welcomed even her mother if it killed the dream. No mere demon could battle Irene and win.
"Hi, Mom." Keep it casual. "How is Nairobi?" Good. Voice not too shaky. Her mother proved sharp as a fox at picking up stress. "Oh, you're in France?"
Why not? Irene traveled constantly, a nomad with no permanent address. Sam frowned, irritated, wishing her mother wouldn't call before breakfast. Mornings were special, reserved for family. What time is it in Europe, anyway?
"What happened to Nairobi?"
Resigned to hearing a long story, she tucked the phone under her chin and set about assembling the makings of an omelet while her nerves settled into the morning routine. With cool efficiency she split a muffin and slipped it into the toaster, ready to go when Paul or their son, Andy, appeared.
"Yes, Mother," Samantha Barlowe, patient and dutiful, responded. Conversations with her mother required little besides occasional agreement whenever Irene paused for breath.
"So what are you doing in France?"
Irene, the perennial guest, lived shamelessly off the hospitality of her friends.
"Count de Coucy? Yeah, how fortunate you got invited to his party. He has a live-in psychic?" Sam huffed in disbelief. Not good. Her mother and a psychic meant trouble.
"Now hold on. You will not seek advice from this psychic about my vacation."
Sam's temper heated. Her mother simply could not stay out of her business since she had her own family. Throughout her childhood, Irene had blithely ignored her motherly duties—a little late to try for a relationship now.
"You can consult every psychic in Europe, for all I care, I'm not talking about this anymore. No way am I giving up the chance to live in a two-hundred-year-old farmhouse filled with antiques, even if it's only for two weeks." Damn. Why had I ever mentioned the dream? Deliberately she changed the subject.
"So, tell me about this house party. It sounds exciting." Sam summoned patience for the recitation.
House parties by the upper classes were deadly dull, but Irene rarely required comment. Her opinions were sacrosanct and she scattered them casually, as though they were glass beads at a Mardi Gras festival.
Deftly, Sam stirred a pitcher of orange juice with one hand, while using the other to remove crispy bacon from the microwave.
"Uh huh," she muttered as she worked, bare-footed, wearing her usual morning dress of pajama bottoms and a sleep tee. Later she'd change into jeans and a t-shirt and tuck her short, blonde hair under a baseball cap. Suburban Chicago living required little else.
Oops. A pause at the other end of the phone meant her mother waited for an answer. What had she been talking about? Oh, yeah.
"Yes, Mother, the Biedermierer is perfect; the decorator is very impressed that I could get my hands on such fine stuff so fast. I told him my clever, globetrotting mother is my secret weapon." With no guilt whatsoever, she fed Irene's insatiable desire for flattery. Sam's passion for antiques had led her into a part-time career of antique finder for several decorator clients. She prowled continually.
"Oh, watch out for some French Empire when you get to Paris. I have another client with a yen for female figurines with clocks in their bellies."
Laughing, she opened the fridge to get the eggs, imagining her mother's look of displeasure at such a display of irreverence for costly objects.
"Good morning, Babe." Paul came up behind her and caught her in his arms, nuzzling the back of her neck. A tingle of sexual tension hovered, never far below the surface for either one of them. She leaned against him, loving the feel of his lean, muscular body, while savoring his strength and what she thought of as his "ready-for-the-office" smell; soap, after shave, shampoo and toothpaste. On weekends she preferred him unadorned; pure "essence of Paul."
"Morning, Irene," he said loudly into the phone, and gave her another hug before he settled onto a bar stool to listen to her conversation and drink the coffee she poured for him.
Sam gave him a wink while admiring the primitive masculinity she adored. The sharp angles and planes of his face were enhanced by his dark shaggy brown hair, worn slightly long. The razor-sharp intellect that reflected in his dark brown eyes gave him a predatory look that never failed to excite her. He lived, and loved, enveloped in an intense, passionate aura that he carried over into his career, making him one of the most sought-after, and successful, documentary film producers in Chicago.
Sighing, she turned her attention, once again, to the phone, rolling her eyes in silent communication. Morning phone calls from her mother were a given in this house.
"We'll be on our way tomorrow. We'll start shooting the film next Monday. Use my cell number. I'm not sure the farmhouse has phones." A pause, then she added, grimly, "Mother, come off it. The local chamber of commerce arranged for us to stay there and I'm sure they're reliable." Her mother really tried her patience. The woman was relentless.
"I'm not talking about this anymore. The dream is merely coincidence, not some message from the netherworld." Her voice reflected an assurance she didn't quite feel. Her heart rate rose, warning of anxiety simmering under the surface, ready to engulf her. No, she wouldn't give into it.