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Authors: Penny Greenhorn

Tags: #urban fantasy, #demon, #paranormal, #supernatural, #teen, #ghost, #psychic, #empath

Adelaide Upset

BOOK: Adelaide Upset
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Adelaide Upset

Penny Greenhorn

 

 

 

Adelaide Upset

By Penny Greenhorn

Smashwords Edition

 

ADELAIDE UPSET. Copyright © 2013
by Penny Greenhorn

 

ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. This book contains
material protected under International and Federal Copyright Laws
and Treaties. Any unauthorized reprint or use of this material is
prohibited. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted
in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including
photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and
retrieval system without express written permission from the
author/publisher.

 

This book is a work of
fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are
products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any
resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales
is entirely coincidental.

 

 

 

It may be a bit redundant,
but... this is for Steve.

Chapter 1

 

The bugs no longer
frightened me. They churned beneath me, the loose, damp soil their
home, and soon it would be mine. I no longer thought ‘I am dying.’
I knew it. I knew it in my bones, my fifteen year old
bones.

The fall had been quick,
like a slap. I’d heard the crack, my body shifting ever so slightly
as I’d glanced down, seeing the dirt fizzle away, disappearing down
into the cracks, revealing the planks of rotten wood. I’d jerked to
move, but the snap came first, then the drop. My head hit the rim
of the well on my way down. My foot broke the fall, another
snap.

I hurt, for minutes, for
hours, for days. I screamed and cried until my voice was cracked
and broken, my tears all dried up. They came, searching our vast
properties for me. I heard their voices shouting my name from
above. “Adelaide,” they called. My uncle first, then even my father
and brothers, all taunting. Taunting, “Adelaide.”

Minutes.

Hours.

Days.

The nights were cold. My
stomach convulsed, angry and twisting with pain. I grew weak, my
life leaking out.

When it rained I could
barely curl my fingers to dig a pit, but my poor efforts were
enough. It filled with water and I dragged my mouth over and
slurped it down, the grit and dirt clotting in my cracked lips,
sticking to my dry teeth. I vomited, crawling away from my only
source of water, using the same place I had eliminated that first
day, when I still had something to eliminate. But my body had dried
up since then, a prune, a raisin. And it didn’t rain after that. No
water, nothing to prolong the inevitable. I wasn’t going to die. I
was dying. I was sure of it, as I was sure of the tantalizing
circle of light above my head. It bled down on me, the key to my
freedom fifteen feet away. I had tried to climb, gripping roots and
moist clay, scrambling to reach the surface. I’d scratched and
clawed, but it had been a wasted effort.

I was dying.

The voices came back.
“Adelaide,” they called. But no, that wasn’t my family. “Adelaide,”
the voice hissed, its sibilant whisper a threat. “Adelaide, I’ll
find you,” it promised.

Crack!

I jerked awake, the sound
having startled me from my hellish nightmare. Fumbling for the
light on my nightstand I knocked a few romance novels off, hearing
them flap to the floor as I flipped on the switch.

Smith was standing over my
bed, flickering in and out, his hologram-like image weak and
thready. I assume most people would go into hysterics at seeing a
ghost loom over them upon first wake, but truthfully, I found it
kind of reassuring.


Thanks,” I muttered,
crawling from bed. The 5000 piece puzzle box he’d dropped to pull
me from my nightmare had spilled open, the colorful cardboard
pieces scattered all over. I stepped around them, pulling on the
first pair of shoes I could find before heading down the stairs.
“I’m going to Luke’s,” I called over my shoulder, letting the light
on, leaving a bright wake behind me.

Lucas Finch, my neighbor
and maybe boyfriend wasn’t home. He owned a body shop in Brunswick,
but it was his hobby restoring classic cars that kept him busy,
traveling on little jaunts across the country (and sometimes out of
it) to collect parts. It didn’t matter if he was gone though, I had
a spare key.

Trudging through the
kitchen and out the back door I crossed my weedy yard to the fence
that separated our properties. Bushes clung to it; they had been
growing unchecked until a few weeks ago when I’d stepped outside to
find a narrow path clipped open. Lucas did things like that, sweet
things, and he always shrugged off my thanks. But I was grateful,
grateful for any sign that he was interested in me, because the
truth was, there weren’t many.

After letting myself in I
scrounged through his fridge, nudging aside the beer and brown
mustard, then grunting when I realized that was all he had. I
wandered down the hall and flopped facedown on his couch, grabbing
the remote. I liked to turn the TV on so I could turn myself off.
The nightmares were back, only now they had a certain demonic edge
to them, and I suspected I knew why. But I wasn’t prepared to give
up Demidov’s diary yet, his secret still tucked away beside my
washer and dryer where it would stay.

I must have fallen asleep
because the next thing I knew I was being lifted, Lucas carrying me
up the stairs to his loft. He smelled like metal and grease, just
subtle enough to be masculine and sexy.


You’re back,” I said
sounding drowsy. “Did you miss me?”

He paused, the length of
time long enough to make me nervous. “I wanted to come back,” he
finally admitted.

I meant to say more, but I
must have fallen back asleep because it was morning when next I
woke. Lucas had already slipped out of bed and gone to work,
leaving me alone in his house. I was a little disappointed by our
continually awkward relationship, we seemed destined to move in
fits and starts, but I wasn’t ready to give up, not even close. The
next time I saw Lucas it was going to be a start, I’d make sure of
it.

 

* * *

 

“Whatever those are, they’re disgusting,” I
said upon stepping inside the Sterling’s Motel front office. “Cease
and desist at once,” I told Stephen.

He was teetered on top of a stepladder, arms
stretched overhead as he pinned up a sticky ribbon of curling
yellow. “They catch flies,” he explained, glancing down at me.

Ben came out from around
the front desk, grizzled and frowning. As Ben Sterling, the owner
of Sterling’s Motel, you would think he’d be a bit more personable,
but watching his sharp shoulders hunch forward as he marched toward
me, I knew he was cantankerous as ever. “It’s supposed to hit the
nineties today and in case you hadn’t noticed, Adelaide, it’s the
dead of summer, the bugs are swarming.”


But those are...” I
gestured up at Ben’s solution, floundering for the right
word.

“Tacky?” Stephen supplied.


No, that’s too nice a
term, trashy more like.” I glanced at Ben, his desire to argue was
palpable, and not just because I was an empath. “Take them down,
Stephen,” I ordered, knowing it would set Ben off.


Take them down!” he
echoed in a booming voice. “Take them down! So you give orders now?
The last time I looked it said ‘Sterling’s’ on the
sign!”


You’re going to give
yourself a heart attack,” I replied, setting my purse down behind
the counter as I calmly ignored his outburst.


Piss off, Adelaide!” Ben
hollered, throwing open the office door. “They stay!” he said as he
swept out, calling to Stephen over his shoulder “Hang them
all!”


Don’t,” I warned Stephen
after Ben had gone, cutting off his protests. “I know what he said,
but trust me, he won’t care, not really.”

Stephen looked at me like
I was crazy, sometimes Missy did too. They were both wary of Ben’s
moods, but being an empath gave me insight to the truth, and the
truth was that Ben liked being grumpy. Yelling filled him with
satisfaction, as if he were venting the dismal reality that bogged
him down, relieving the upsetting pressure that was the loss of his
wife. People were contradictory like that, Ben case in point. For
him surliness was gratifying. So I challenged him, insulted him,
found ways to make him argue and shout, and he liked me for it,
though he would never, ever, say so out loud. I knew Missy and
Stephen, being intimidated by him, thought I was cracked, often
waiting for me to get fired, but I never would. I was Ben’s
balm.

Stephen climbed down,
folding up the stepladder as he collected the remaining fly traps.
He was on summer break, working at the motel as not only our
cleaning lady, but covering our shifts more freely to bring in
extra cash. Responsibility suited him. I sat down, making myself
comfortable behind the front desk, my eyes tracing over his lanky
shape, comparing him to Smith, the ghost, his father.


You’re doing it again,”
he said, glancing at me sideways. “You’re staring.” I didn’t deny
it. For a teen, he was insightful and mature, not much got by
him.

Ask
, I thought. It had been
weeks since I’d learned that the ghost who’d been so helpful to me
was his father, the father that both Stephen and his mother assumed
had run off. There was a story there, a mystery that I’d promised
to uncover, and I knew that Stephen’s mother—the weeping
woman—could help. The thing was, I didn’t want to ask her. She was
protective of Stephen, and for some reason, had latched onto the
idea that I was a bad influence. We’d never met face to face, and I
sort of wanted to keep it that way. I didn’t harbor much patience
for people, and dealing with them was the bane of my
existence.

But I could ask Stephen.
I’d been meaning to since the end of spring, hence the constant,
odd staring. I just wasn’t sure how to broach the subject subtly;
trying to be tactful gave me a headache. So I ended up blurting,
“Tell me about your father.”

His face twisted.
“Why?”

“Just humor me,” I said, growing impatient
already.

He set the stepladder
aside, leaning it carefully against the wall before giving me his
full attention. “He left when I was little, I don’t know much about
him. But you know that already, in fact, you’ve been acting a
little off since I told you.”


I’m just curious is all,”
I lied. “Your mom must have told you things about him, like what he
did for a living.”

I was stirring up
Stephen’s upset, making him sad, full of grief. I felt everything
he felt, and in addition: guilty, because I was causing his minor
misery. But you know what they say, the greater good and all
that...


He worked at that big
sawmill company in Brunswick, did the logging, brought in the
timber.”


So he’s actually a
lumberjack?” I said, nearly smiling. A strong ghost could project
its image, but only as it remembered itself. Smith was often in
flannel, mussed hair and clunky boots—he
looked
like a
lumberjack.

“Was,” Stephen corrected softly. “Who knows
what he’s doing now.”

Smith was currently
hovering inside the door, a milky haze that churned with emotion,
floating at eye-level. I couldn’t tell Stephen that, but I wished I
could tell him that his father hadn’t abandoned them. Whatever had
happened, I knew Smith would not have run off.


I’m sure he’s missing
you,” I said, feeling like Oprah. I shook off the remaining
sentimentality. “Better start cleaning rooms. Here,” I said,
leaning across the desk to hand him the clipboard. “Get
cracking.”

Smith took shape the
minute Stephen was gone. The vaporous form pressing tight,
stretching out, until the shape of him was visible. His color, the
texture of his clothing, it all became more vivid, from transparent
to translucent. Sometimes, when he was in my periphery, the very
edge of my eye, he looked real, like a living man and not the ghost
of his former self. This didn’t happen often, which was good as I
preferred the less threatening version of him, finding the fluffy
cloud of white a lot easier to take in.

BOOK: Adelaide Upset
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