Ghosts of Midnight Ridge
Nothing but Ash

Nothing but Ash
By L. Shannon
Genre:  Paranormal Romantic Suspense
Length: Novella, Quick Silver
ISBN:  978-1-59578-538-1
Released: 2009
Cobblestone Press
Cover Artist:  Amanda Kelsey
Editor: Katie Bryan

Formats available: HTML, Adobe PDF,
MobiPocket, Microsoft Reader
Buy it at Liquid Silver Books
Also available at Fictionwise, All Romance eBooks

Owen’s life is in shambles. His wife is missing and presumed
dead. His daughter is running wild and considered the worst
criminal in Midnight Ridge. The sheriff, his former girlfriend,
expects him to get his act together and “find his balls”. It couldn’t
get any worse. Until his wife’s ghost shows up, determined to lead
them to her killer, a wolf hiding among the sheep, picking them
off one bad seed at a time...

(coming soon)

(*WARNING* creepy excerpt. Consider yourself warned.)

Chapter One

“Your daughter is locked up in my jail again.” Sheriff Erin Walker hated these calls with a passion. In a town of under two hundred with the people scattered spaciously around the forested base of Midnight Ridge, crime was rare. This was the third time this week she’d hauled Sienna Sinclair in and put her teenaged ass behind bars.

“Again? What has she done this time?” Owen Sinclair sounded tired, beaten down by the reality of raising a troubled kid alone.

She sighed. The answer didn’t really matter. The girl was just as messed up as her father. The difference was, Sienna was striking out at a community that had failed to save her mother. She couldn’t blame Sienna, not one bit. Every second of the two years since Cindy Sinclair had gone missing and then been presumed dead had been hell for them all.

“We have to do something about her, Owen. This can’t go on.”

“I know, Erin. I know.”

She’d grown up with Cindy and Owen. She wasn’t just the local sheriff. She was also one of Owen’s closest friends, Sienna’s godmother, and worried sick about both of them. Hearing the defeat in Owen’s voice broke her heart. “Come on down to the station. We’ll talk.”

“I’ll be there in twenty or so. I need to get Henry to watch the store.”

“We’ll be here.”

He answered with a grunt that might have been, “Okay,” before the phone clicked dead.

Erin dropped the department phone back into its cradle. It tore at her how little she could do to help them. But this time she was going to be blunt and lay it out. If she and Owen couldn’t get through to Sienna, then… well, they’d have to get serious.

The teenager had flattened James Marshal’s tractor tires, burned a few corn stalk pyres, stolen from her own father’s store, taken joyrides in Miss Carolyn’s old Caddy and tried to hotwire Erin’s Jeep… but this time was worse. What the girl’d done this time wasn’t just a prank. It was… disturbing.

Smoothing back her wind-tangled hair, she retied it into her usual ponytail. She reached halfway to her desk drawer for the lipstick she kept there but halted. No, she wasn’t going to spruce up. No need. It was just Owen and he didn’t even know women existed. His whole heart had died when Cindy disappeared. Shame too. He’d always had Erin’s heart firmly in his pocket if he ever cared to look.

Never mind that.

She left her tiny office to check the front desk. “Everything good here, Irma?”

“Yes, ma’am. It’s all good, all quiet.” A sweet little mouse of a secretary, Irma Parson pushed her glasses up and fussed with a vague attempt to hide her fresh pink nail polish. Not that the girl would get in trouble for it. No, it was more likely Irma was just being shy about the new, more feminine color on her normally bare nails.

Did Irma have a date? If so, it was about time. “Go ahead home, Irma. I can handle Sienna myself.”

With a single nervous glance at the clock, Irma snatched her purse and nearly darted for the door. “Thanks, Sheriff Walker.”

The door slammed shut and left the quiet moving through the room like a dangerous shadow holding the unknown. It was silent enough to raise the hair on the back of her neck. Had Sienna ever been that quiet in her whole life? Not that Erin had ever seen.

Rushing back to the lock up, she turned the corner and found the girl standing in the center of her cell. One hand rose and held out like a mime, pressing against a wall … or perhaps something soft.

“Momma?” Sienna’s whispered voice carried on a tremble of air. Hesitant, yet flushed with the deepest of emotions. “Oh, Momma, I’ve missed you so much.”

Pain closed Erin’s throat. Dear God, please don’t let the girl go on like this. It was too terrible, too cruel, far too much to ask her to bear. “Sienna, are you all right?”

Sienna didn’t look her way. Her hand stayed up, but her fingers closed over like she was holding someone’s hand. “You see her, don’t you? Momma’s come back.”

Shit. Erin unlocked the cell and moved around the girl to face her. The look of joy on Sienna’s face was beautiful and terrible. “I don’t see anyone, Sienna. Just you and me.”

“But she’s right here. Reach out and you can touch her too.”

After seeing the crazy graffiti Sienna had painted on the water tower, she’d wondered if maybe the girl had gotten a hold of some drugs. Now, drugs seemed like the better of two awful options. “She’s not here, honey. She’s gone.”

“She’s not! She’s right in front of me. Momma’s here.” Tears welled up in the girl’s wide eyes. Her body began shaking. Her hand finally lost its surreal handholding shape and slowly fell to her side.

Erin caught her even as the girl’s knees buckled. “Easy, honey.” Curled into her arms, Sienna’s sobs were soft and wretched. Erin moved them to the bench and cradled her, holding Sienna through the emotional storm. With fingers to Sienna’s wrist, Erin checked her pulse. She was pretty sure this was just wild emotions, but if there were drugs involved, better safe than sorry. Her pulse was a little bit fast, but not dramatically so considering the rush of tears.

Gradually the shaking subsided and Sienna pulled back, wiping at her face with her overlong sleeve.

“Sienna, I’m worried about you.”

“I’m okay.”

Right. “I’m worried enough right now that I’m considering dragging you down to Black Mountain Medical to have you drug tested.”

“What?” Sienna laughed, but the sound grated on the edge of hysterical. “I don’t do drugs. You can’t even get drugs here in Midnight Ridge.”

“I just saw you talking to thin air—”

“No, you didn’t. I was talking to my mom.”

Owen’s shadow cut across them. “Your mother is gone, Sienna.”

“Mom’s not gone. She’s dead, but not gone.” Sienna shot to her feet and stomped across to face her father through the bars. “She’s dead, but she was here. I talked to her ghost. She talked back.” Sienna’s voice rose on every word.

“Sienna, don’t…”

Hands fisted around the bars, tears streaming down her cheeks, Sienna shouted. “She’s dead. Mom’s dead. She didn’t leave us. She’s dead and someone here in Midnight Ridge killed her!”


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