Shiver and Spice

By: Kelley St. John

Introduction




SPICY COOKING, hot weather and sizzling sex-three of the most notable staples of life in Louisiana. Add a little voodoo, vampires and ghosts, and you’ve got enough to keep life interesting for several generations of Vicknairs.

Every member of this unique family can cook a mean gumbo, stay cool in thick humidity and sure enough knows how to burn up the sheets. And while they may not have had firsthand experience with voodoo and vampires-yet-they make up for it in spades with ghosts.

Currently, six Vicknair cousins are doing their part to follow family tradition, guiding lost spirits who need a little help finding the light. Obtaining their spectral assignments from grandmother Adeline, the family matriarch, even in death, the cousins generally don’t have much trouble fulfilling a spirit’s requirement for crossing. However, every now and then, things tend to go awry. A medium might fall in love with a spirit, the way Monique Vicknair did, or a medium’s assignment may help a ghost to save a friend from a killer, which recently happened to Gage Vicknair. But what happened to Monique and Gage isn’t anything compared to what has happened to their brother, Dax.

Dax Vicknair fell in love with a spirit that was helping another to cross over. Unlike Monique’s husband, who was on his way to the light when Dax’s feisty sister sidetracked him, Celeste did cross over, the whole way. And now Dax is stuck over here, helping other ghosts, while the one he wants is an eternity away. Based on this assessment, Dax has determined that life, quite simply, sucks.

But everything isn’t always as it seems, especially when the powers that be, and Grandma Adeline, have anything to say about it.





Prologue




CELESTE BEAUCHAMP was in the middle again. Where was this place, this dark room that had become her existence? And which way should she go to get out?

She stood in the center and surveyed her surroundings. A door on her left led to a pathway that she’d traveled before and that she wanted to travel again. A pathway to him. But that door was closed. Another door on her right was open, as it usually was, but she couldn’t remember where it led. And in the center, straight ahead of her, the entire wall looked smooth and complete, but Celeste knew that the middle held a doorway too.

That door was only visible when the light came.

She held up her hand and surveyed it, glowing faintly. Her hair also shimmered, as did the rest of her body. With that center door closed tight, she provided the only source of light in this place.

Was she dead? Yes, she supposed she was, because a dream wouldn’t be this vivid. But if she were dead, then why didn’t she head on to her final destination?

Faint voices, calling her name, caused her to step toward the path to her right. Open and ready, that path would be easy to access. She’d gone there before; she remembered that much. But she never stayed there very long. She always came back here, to this middle place, because this was the way to him.

A soft pop sounded, and a pinprick of light, like a star pushing its way through a stormy cloud, pierced the middle wall and caused Celeste to turn back. It grew a bit, then a little more, until the opening was the size of a dime. Compared to the darkness around it, the radiance was exquisite, and Celeste suddenly longed to touch it. She stepped toward it, then the voices to her right screamed, and she stopped.

Rapid footsteps suddenly echoed in the confines of the room, and then a little girl bolted out of thin air and ran toward the light. Most certainly a ghost, she glowed faintly at first, but then her dress-no, her entire body-absorbed the light, until Celeste had to shield her eyes from the child’s brilliance. Two pigtails of straight brown hair were capped in hot-pink bows that matched the trim on her yellow dress.

“That’s it!” She clapped her hands together until the light grew into a door-size opening that illuminated the entire span of the room. “I’m going on in. Tell Prissy, my sister, to follow me. She’s coming. Tell her where I am, okay?”

“Prissy?” Celeste asked, but the girl was too focused on the light to hear.

“Granny’s in there. She’s waiting for me. Granny, I’m coming! Oh wow, I smell cookies. Chocolate oatmeal, my favorite!” She took another step, then merged with the gleaming light.

“Wait!” Celeste shouted at the same moment that the wall absorbed the light and the girl.

She stepped forward and placed her palm where the light had been. Cold, smooth stone met her touch. She’d seen the lighted doorway before, right after the accident, but she hadn’t entered it that time either. That time, another young ghost had stopped her from passing through. The girl, Chloe, needed help crossing over, and Celeste hadn’t wanted to leave her behind, so she’d ignored the beckoning light and helped Chloe find her way.

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