Shadows: A Bayou Magic Novel, page 1
Table of Contents
About Kristen Proby
Other Books by Kristen Proby
A Bayou Magic Novel
Copyright © 2019 by Kristen Proby
All Rights Reserved. This book may not be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission from the author. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author’s rights. All characters and storylines are the property of the author and your support and respect are appreciated. The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author.
Cover Design: By Hang Le
Formatting: Uplifting Author Services
Published by Ampersand Publishing, Inc.
If you’ve read me for any length of time, you know that I love a love story. Telling love stories is what I’m most passionate about. Over the past couple of years, I’ve wanted to dabble in a little suspense, a little paranormal romance. I love to read this genre, and I thought it would be fun to write it. I touched on it with Mallory’s story in Easy Magic, and I think you’ll be pleased to see a glimpse of Mallory in this story as well.
Shadows is two years in the making. It seemed I always had other deadlines, other stories that came first. So when it was time to plot Shadows, and I sat down to write it, I was ecstatic.
And let me just tell you, it didn’t disappoint.
I would like to point out that this story is darker than what I’m known for. The love story is there, of course, but there is also a quest involved that had me on the edge of my seat. Some of what’s here may disturb you, as it should. We’re talking about a serial killer, after all.
I hope you enjoy these sisters, their gifts, and the men who love them. This is the first of three books.
So sit back, make sure the lights are on, and let me tell you a story…
“Don’t touch that!”
Daphne, my youngest sister, recoils from the rocking chair in the corner. It’s dark under the stairs, but I know it’s there.
I can see the shadow sitting in it.
The shadows are everywhere.
“Come on,” I continue, gesturing for my sisters to huddle under our blanket fort with me. Shut out the shadows. The noises.
“I don’t like it under here,” Millie, the middle daughter says. She points her flashlight away from her face, illuminating our little haven, reflecting the quilt above us and casting everything in a red glow. We managed to sneak lots of pillows and old, ratty blankets under here. There’s a storm raging tonight, and that’s when it seems to be the worst.
For all of us.
We’re what they call sensitive.
I’ve read books that I keep at school so our daddy doesn’t see. It makes him the maddest of all.
And when Daddy’s mad, we get punished.
I’m the oldest. At thirteen, I’m the one who protects my sisters from the house. From all of the bad things around us. It’s always been this way. Our parents don’t know. And even if they did, I’m not sure they’d care. Not really.
Because they don’t believe me when I tell them about the shadows in the house.
And they don’t believe Daphne when she says she sees things when she touches the old furniture.
A clap of thunder rocks the house, and Daphne lays her head in my lap, whimpering.
“I hope we don’t get caught,” Millie whispers. “Last time—”
“We won’t,” I assure. “Dad’s not here, and Mama’s passed out.”
But, suddenly, there’s a loud banging on the back door, and we all stare at each other in horror.
That entrance is only a few feet from where we’re huddled under the stairs.
“She won’t wake up,” I whisper and pull Millie into my arms. “Please don’t let her wake up.”
But she does.
A few seconds later, we hear loud footsteps stomping through the house.
“I’m comin’ already!” Mama yells to whoever’s pounding on the door.
Soundlessly, we turn off our flashlights. Being in the dark is its own horrible torture.
But getting caught?
I don’t want to even think it.
“What are you doin’ here?” Mama demands after yanking open the front entry. I can feel the whoosh of air slide under the thin door of our hiding spot.
“Checkin’ on you,” a man says. “Storm’s a doozy.”
“We’re fine,” Mama replies. “You woke me out of a dead sleep.”
“Where is he?” the man asks. I’m pretty sure it’s Horace. He lives nearby and helps Mama and Daddy with things around the house.
“Gone,” Mama says. “And he ain’t comin’ back.”
I feel Daphne stiffen.
He’s not coming back?
“That means you and me can—”
“It don’t mean nothin’,” Mama interrupts him. “Now, git. Git outta here, ’fore’n I sic the cops on you.”
There are no more voices. Just a slamming door, and then Mama’s feet stomping back down the hall and up the stairs to her bedroom. I hear the floorboards creak as she gets back into bed.
“Can we turn the light back on?” Millie whispers.
“Not yet,” I mutter back to her. I need to make sure Mama’s asleep before we turn on the lights or make any noise.
We’re not supposed to be under here.
But it’s the safest place in the house.
We’re quiet for a long time. I run my fingers through Daphne’s hair as she lays on my lap. Millie rests her head on my shoulder.
Our arms are looped around each other as the storm rages, and the house settles—more alive than ever.
“Do you hear it?” Millie asks.
The chair is rocking in the corner now, squeaking with every back and forth motion.
Footsteps upstairs. And they aren’t Mama’s.
“Can you tell if she’s asleep?” I ask Millie.
“I don’t want to reach out,” she admits. Millie’s psychic abilities are off the charts, even for a ten-year-old.
“Just real fast, then shut it down.”
She sighs next to me and then is quiet while her mind searches the house.
“She’s asleep,” she whispers. “And he’s here.”
She whimpers. Daphne stirs and sits up.
“I saw him,” Daphne says. “In my dream.”
“Who?” I ask again and flip on my flashlight.
I don’t have to ask a third time.
“Hello, everyone, and welcome to my tour. I’m Brielle Landry, and I’ll be your guide today. Now, I know there are roughly eleven thousand ghost tours in the French Quarter, so I thank you kindly for choosing mine.”
I smile at the crowd that’s gathered on the sidewalk before me. We have a group of all ages this evening, from young teenagers to middle-aged folks. There are those who want to be in the front, listening raptly. And then, of course, there are the drunk ones, who will likely be the hecklers.
“I have just a couple rules for y’all. No walking in the street. If you’ve been here for twenty minutes, you’ve already learned that drivers don’t slow down, and I won’t lose anyone to vehicular homicide on my tour.”
The group laughs, and I continue, my eyes roaming the crowd and taking stock.
“We won’t be going inside any of the beautiful buildings we’ll be talking about tonight, but halfway through, we will stop at a bar to soak in some A/C and have a refreshment or two.”
“Or five,” Heckler Number One says, elbowing his friend.
“I’m always happy to answer questions, so don’t be shy, y’hear? Now, let’s get started.”
I point to the big, gray building behind me. Most tours save this one for last, but not me. It’s the most haunted of the group, and I want to get it over with.
Not that the rest of the tour isn’t haunted. Ghosts are literally everywhere.
But this one? It’s sinister.
I hate it.
Tour groups love it.
“This building behind me is the LaLaurie mansion,” I begin. “Well, a rebuilt version of the original house, anyway. Like most buildings in the Quarter, it suffered a nasty fire. Delphine LaLaurie lived here with her third husband, Louis. She had two daughters from previous marriages. Both of her earlier husbands died early deaths.”
I swallow hard as I look over at the façade. More shadows than I can count stare back at me.
“Delphine and Louis had a love for torture.” The drama is thick in my New Orleans accent as I relay stories of torment, and the horrific atrocities done to the hundreds of slaves that once lived in the building behind me. “And these stories I just shared are the less horrible ones.”
Several pairs of eyes whip to mine in surprise.
Including a pair of green orbs the same color as the malachite pendant I wear around my neck for protection.
I instinctively reach up and fiddle with the stone as I continue.
“Who haunts it?” someone calls out.
“One day, Delphine chased a twelve-year-old slave girl up to the roof of the building with a bullwhip. The young girl had been brushing Delphine’s hair and hit a snag. She ran from the whip, and it’s said she jumped to her death out of fear.
“Leah, the slave girl, is buried on the grounds of the mansion, along with countless others. When renovations were done years after Delphine and Louis fled to Paris, skeletons were found in the walls. So much death has happened here, that it wouldn’t surprise me if dozens of spirits haunt the house.
“It was once owned by Nicolas Cage, but it has a different owner now. They don’t offer tours.”
I gesture for the group to follow me, and we continue down Royal Street.
My route through the Quarter is deliberate. I take the same path every day. There are no surprises that way.
Surprises for me are never fun.
Yes, I see shadows, but they’re the same ones every time. I know where they lurk.
My hecklers turn out to be fun rather than ruining the tour for everyone else, and before long, we’ve stopped for our refreshments. I grab myself two bottles of water, one to drink now, and one to stow away in my bag for later.
“How do you know all this stuff?”
I turn and see those green eyes from before smiling down at me.
“I studied,” I say with a grin of my own. The man is handsome as all get out, with a dimple in a cheek covered by dark stubble. But it’s those eyes that draw me in. “I was a history major in college, and since I’m from this area, I’ve always been fascinated by local history.”
“You tell a hell of a story.”
“Thank you.” I take a sip of my water, watching him. “Where are you from?”
“Another haunted city.”
“They claim to be the most haunted in America.”
I feel my smile turn colder. “While I’ve never been there, I’m sure Savannah is beautiful. But we have more dead in New Orleans than we have living. And while it’s not a competition, I’d bet this city would stand up to yours any day of the week. At least, for hauntings.”
“Maybe you need to visit.”
Not a chance in hell.
“Maybe one day.”
“I’m Cash.” He holds out his hand to shake mine. His palm is warm, his grip strong.
“Brielle. But you knew that.”
“You’re a beautiful woman, Brielle.”
“A complicated one.” I wink at him, pull my hand away, and round up the troops. “Let’s go, everyone. It’s time for more ghost walking.”
Once we’re back on the sidewalk, I point to the building behind me. “This was once a boys’ school. The original building burned down in the seventeen hundreds, and the boys perished in the building. It’s said they still live here.”
I glance back and see several small shadows looking out the windows.
“It’s a hotel now, and guests have reported hearing laughter and children playing. Do you remember back in the day when we had regular film cameras?”
The older members of my group smile and nod.
“Well, back then, people would take their vacation photos. When they got home, they’d take the film in to be developed. Several vacationers reported that as they were sifting through their memories, they saw photos of them. Asleep. From above.”
I glance over to see Cash raise one dark eyebrow. His dimple winks at me as he crosses his arms over his impressive chest and listens intently.
He would be less distracting if he were in the back of the group.
“So, while harmless, the boys are mischievous. They like to turn the channels on the TV.”
“We’re staying there.” A woman looks up at her husband. “I’ll never sleep tonight.”
I laugh and, just as I turn to lead the group to the next point of interest, I falter and stop in my tracks.
A new shadow.
A new shadow.
About my height, standing on the sidewalk. I can never make out faces, but I can tell this one is turned toward me. It’s a feminine spirit.
I blink quickly and try to recover so I don’t alert my group to anything amiss.
A new shadow.
It’s rare, even in the Quarter.
But I clear my throat and walk past the shadow to our next stop.
“That was amazing.” A college-age girl smiles broadly and bounces on the balls of her feet. The tour ended fifteen minutes ago, but I always stay after to answer questions. “I’m Tammy. I just loved all of the stories. It’s so interesting.”
“I’m glad you enjoyed it.”
“I was wondering about that Laurie house?”
“Yeah. That one. Where can I learn more about her? I mean, I know it sounds sick, but I’m fascinated by that stuff.”
She blushes. “History stuff. I guess it does sound awful, doesn’t it?”
“There are lots of articles about Delphine online. Just Google the name, and you’ll have more information than you can read. But I’ll warn you, it’s graphic.”
“Thanks.” She smiles at me, then hurries to catch up with her friend.
“People are morbidly curious,” Cash says, joining me. He hung back, waiting for everyone else to ask
“Always.” I shudder. I know exactly what was done to those slaves.
Sometimes, the shadows talk.
“Did you have more questions, Cash?”
“One.” I start to walk down the sidewalk, and he joins me. I expect him to ask about places that I didn’t cover in my tour. Or maybe about the cemeteries.
Everyone always wants to know about those.
But I can’t do tours there. It’s too much.
Although I do have companies I can refer him to.
“What did you see?”
I stop and frown up at him. Cash is tall. Way taller than my five-foot-six height.
“After you told the story about the kids dying in the fire, which is creepy as hell by the way, you turned, and then you stopped and went white as a sheet. You looked like you saw a ghost.”
Well, I did see a ghost, Cash.
But I can’t say that.
“It was great having you on the tour this evening.” I smile at him and pat him on the arm. “Have a fantastic vacation. Be careful.”
And with that, I hurry away, headed to the one place in the city that I’m absolutely safe.
“Help me put these chairs up, will you?”
Millie flutters around her little café, stacking chairs on tables so her night crew can come in and mop the floors.
Witches Brew will be three years old this spring, and so far, it’s been a success for my younger sister. And it should be. This café is perfect for the French Quarter, from its fun name to the quirky décor and delicious menu.
Coffee served in a cauldron? Sure thing.
Want a love potion? You can order one up.
She’ll also read your tarot cards if you ask nicely.
I know that tourists come in here and think it’s just a fun, silly café.
But it’s as real as it gets.
Millie is a gifted witch. A crazy, amazing psychic. And those love potions? Well, they’re real.
She’s a hedgewitch.
Or, in layman’s terms, a kitchen witch.
And she’s as scatterbrained and fun as she is a little scary.
Other author's books:
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