Ghost of a Chance
It didn’t look like a haunted house.
Holly Clarke stared at the three-story house between swipes of the wiper blades across the windshield of her rental car.
Less than five minutes after her plane touched down in Louisiana, the heavy gray skies had erupted in torrential downpours. Although it had taken over an hour to find Beau Arbor House—nearly three times longer than her GPS had originally promised—she was still drenched from her mad dash to pick up her rental.
“Turn left in .2 miles.”
Tempted to toss the useless GPS out the window, Holly settled for silencing it with a stab of her finger. She would have ended up in a bayou had she taken the next left.
Following a car-shaking boom of thunder, she turned off the vehicle and threw open the door. Her earlier discomfort at being back in New Orleans, the last stop on her story assignment, had nearly faded. Driving the dark, rainy streets hadn’t brought back nearly as many memories of Sam as she’d feared when her editor added the Most Haunted City in America to her assignment itinerary.
Beau Arbor House had merited barely half a dozen hits by the almighty Google when Holly had researched the place two days ago. With dozens of haunted houses catering to Big Easy tourists, she couldn’t imagine why this one warranted a mention in her article.
Arguing that point with her editor—and best friend Lena—would be pointless. Holly could be done her assignment and on a plane bound for home before she’d ever sway Lena once her mind was made up. She trusted her friend’s judgment, though, except when it came to Holly’s love life. The last time she took Lena’s advice on that front she’d ended up with a broken heart.
Grabbing her bags from the passenger seat, Holly bolted from the car, slamming the door behind her. It took only seconds to sprint past moss-covered trees and up the curved stone staircase to the covered front porch, but the rain still managed to soak her all over again.
Shivering, she set her bags down and wiped the rain from her face.
In front of her, the door swung inward with a heart-jarring creak.
Stumbling back a step on instinct, Holly then swore under her breath at the over reaction, blaming the goose bumps that raced across her skin on her wet clothes. Beau Arbor wasn’t any more haunted than the five other bed and breakfasts she’d visited already. The food and eccentric staff had proven far spookier than any of the sightings and unexplained sounds the other B&B’s were supposedly famous for.
She was batting 0 for 5 in the haunting department and even accounting for dark, rainy nights and hinges in need of oiling, she didn’t see that changing any time soon.
“Ms. Clarke?” A soft Cajun accent preceded the middle-aged woman who appeared in the doorway. Barely taller than Holly’s shoulder, the woman cocked her head, her otherwise flawless caramel face undermined by an unexpected scowl.
Holly opened her mouth.
“I’m Charlotte,” the woman interrupted, her intimidating gaze openly sizing Holly up.
Caught off guard by the scrutiny, she shifted in place. “Sorry for the late arrival—”
“You best hurry inside. I don’t have much time. It’s nearly nine o’clock.” The woman spun away from the door, her long pleated skirt twirling up in a black wave of fabric tamed only by the thick braid falling down the middle of her back.
Dressing for the part? That was new.
“I’m in mourning,” Charlotte clarified, though Holly hadn’t said a word aloud.
Left to close the door, Holly finally grabbed her bags and stepped inside. Another shiver crawled up her spine at the thought of Charlotte seeming to read her mind. She shrugged it off, along with the sensation that she might be better off putting her fate in the hands of a malfunctioning GPS.
Charlotte was already halfway up an ornate mahogany staircase to the left of the main parlor and showed no sign of checking to see if Holly followed. Darting a quick glance overhead at the impressive stained-glass chandelier hanging overhead, she trailed after the housekeeper who definitely scored points on the creepiness scale.
If nothing else, Holly would be picking her next assignment for Lena’s travel website, and sun, sand and tropical drinks were at the top of her list. She’d heard enough ghost stories in the couple of weeks to last a phantom’s lifetime. Strangely enough, Charlotte seemed to be in too much of a hurry to fill her in on Beau Arbor’s history.
Every other B&B owner had barely given her time to turn the car off before they were filling her in on each place’s haunting details. While Holly knew Beau Arbor House was supposedly haunted by two brothers who’d both loved and lost the same woman near the end of the Civil War, she’d anticipated a more detailed recounting when she’d arrived.
From somewhere below the music of a fiddle drifted up, and Holly looked over the rail in search of the source.
“Ms. Clarke?” All but tapping her toes, Charlotte waited at the top of the second floor.
She hurried to join her. “What happens at nine?”
“I leave.” With another head-to-toe survey that barely masked her skepticism, Charlotte carried on down the hall.
Wondering what she’d done to annoy the other woman, Holly followed. “I’m sorry if waiting for me made you late for something. My GPS—”
“The spirits don’t care about your GPS.”
“Spirits,” Holly echoed. The Beau Arbor staff may have skipped the history lesson, but certainly didn’t waste any time playing up the ghost angle.
The fiddle music grew louder, and Holly glanced over her shoulder, hoping to catch a peek at the person playing. “They won’t be playing all night, will they?”
The woman arched a brow. “Depends on William’s mood.” She checked her watch and pulled a key from a pocket in her skirt before opening the door. “Oscar is the louder one.”
“Another guest,” Holly guessed.
“Hardly. Though our resident vampire is the one most likely to keep you awake.”
“Hope he’s not hungry.” If Charlotte was pulling out all the stops, Holly didn’t mind playing along.
Charlotte didn’t appreciate the humor. She didn’t even crack a smile.
To Read More... click below