Alana Summers was quite content with her life. A peaceful farm tucked in a wooded area by the lake with her pets for company. A shop in the small tourist town where she sells a potpourri of items that reflect everything about her. She’s at peace. She’s Wiccan.
Logan Farmer is the local sheriff. Small town boy who went to the big city and joined the police force. Then he came home where he belonged. He is deeply rooted in his Native American heritage.
Both had grown up knowing that there was more to the world that could be explained or seen. But neither of them knew that their peaceful lives could be disrupted in an instant by a legend long buried. A tale that had been told to them by Logan’s grandmother when they were young along with a warning that the ancient legend could replay during their lifetime.
But was it really an ancient paranormal evil come to roost or were the recent events merely the doings of a warped human mind? Or had the human’s events shaped the return of the evil?
Alana sat gazing into the fire she built earlier in the day to drive off the chill from the rain that fell steadily down and battered against the tin roof of her little cabin. Normally, she would have enjoyed the music created by the rain. It was normally a soothing sound to her. But tonight, something kept sending chills up her spine as if in warning of some impending crisis. She shivered then, as the chill became more pronounced when she thought about it. Pulling the heavy crocheted afghan around her more tightly, she scooted her chair closer to the fire and rested her feet on the thick, tri-colored fur of her mixed breed dog, Buddy. The big animal was laying on the rag rug by the hearth. He snorted in his sleep and rolled on his back to expose his belly. Part bloodhound, part St. Bernard, and part God only knew what, he still played like a puppy even though he was nearing six years old this winter.
“You’re such a silly dog, you even want your belly rubbed in your sleep.” She laughed and ran her stocking foot along his chest. The big dog was a comfort to her on nights like this. Alana wasn’t afraid to be out here, in the middle of nowhere, alone. It was just that tonight, something troubling was brewing and it was pricking at the edges of her peace.
The day had started out like most of her early autumn days. Getting up well before the sun came up, she had done some yoga, meditated and gave thanks for the many blessings life had given her. Breakfast had been a healthy combination of fruit, yogurt and granola with a cup of Irish breakfast tea sweetened with honey from the local beekeeper. After Buddy and Anastasia, her cross-eyed white Siamese cat had been fed, she spent some time cutting lavender and collecting ripe vegetables from her garden. Since the day had been sunny, she decided to leave the truck in the barn and ride her bicycle the three miles into town where she had her shop, Blessed Be.
Blessed Be was her pride and joy. A little bit of everything that Alana loved. She carried candles, potpourri and soaps made in her kitchen, herbs she grew in her own garden, used and new books, music CDs, and handmade crafts. Occasionally she would do the occasional spell or reading when it felt right to do so.
This morning the shop had been especially busy for a week day and she didn’t notice when the clouds started gathering off to the west, filtering out the sun. She did some accounting work while she ate her lunch, vegetable soup brought to her by her friend Bessie at the little diner opposite her shop, and caught up on her internet orders. When the delivery man pulled up out front to collect her shipments, he shook his head.
“Sure is a long winded storm brewing on the other side of the lake. I hope you drove to work this morning.” She looked up from her work, a calligraphy piece with an Irish blessing on recycled paper, she noticed through the front window the dark clouds that appeared to be boiling in the sky. By the time she closed the shop at five, the clouds were still hanging angrily in the sky but had not moved any closer to Lakeview, the small town that sat on the northern bank of Victory Lake.
The main street of town ended at the public access beach which boasted a smattering of guest cabins that were generally full the entire summer. As she rode her bicycle home, she kept a close watch over her left shoulder and noticed that the clouds were moving along the same path as her own. She got the first chill up her spine as she rode the bicycle down the lane to her little farm.
Sitting here now, she had a feeling something was about to usurp the peacefulness of their small town. She had circled her cabin and barn with salt, reciting the protection spell her mother taught her and her sisters many years ago while they were mere children. “It is the most important spell you must learn.” She could hear her as if she were right in front of her today, even though Rowena was tucked away in County Kildare in Ireland with Alana’s stepfather Niall Fitzgerald.
Rowena decided when the last of her daughters had turned twenty-one, it was time for her to go in search of her heritage which led her to Ireland. Alana, being the oldest of the three sisters probably remembered her father the most. Hobart Summers was a somber man, the exact opposite of their mother who was always filled with light, laughter and good spirit. He had been a good provider and when he passed from a sudden brain aneurism at thirty-five, he had left them with enough to live comfortably until they were all grown.
With her husband gone, Rowena was tired of living in the city and felt drawn to move all of them to Lakeview where she had worked as the manager to the lake cabins during the tourist season and part time at the small, local library during the off season.
Alana loved the peaceful solitude here in the country on her farm, and she relished the familiarity of small town life. Her sisters had chosen entirely different lives. Teagan was the materialistic one of the three and she had gone to college with the intent of learning something that would land her a wealthy husband and lifestyle. Not faring well on the first with a messy divorce behind her, she was a travel agent in Miami, Florida. Riana was the youngest of them, she was still finding her way in life, living like a modern-day gypsy moving every few months and doing whatever job appealed to her at the moment. The last Alana knew, she was working as a black jack dealer in Las Vegas.
Alana smiled to herself as she thought of her sisters. She missed them when they weren’t here and when they were both here for a visit, she spent most of her time and patience mediating between the younger two. Teagan always judging Riana for her lack of direction and Riana reminding Teagan that she was the one who had married a drunk playboy that had made sure she didn’t have ‘jackshit’ to show for it when they got divorced. And when Alana tried to intervene, they both inevitably turned on her and told her that she was going to live like an old maid the rest of her life if she stayed in this boring hole of a town. Rowena called weekly to check on all of them, but most of the time the only one that she could ever get hold of on a regular basis was Alana. “You are such a grounding force for our family, Alana.” That was always how Rowena ended their calls. Sometimes, Alana didn’t want to be the grounding force but it was what it was. Alana’s Wiccan element was Earth and that was what Earth did, it grounded. She reached for her tea and took a sip, enjoying the rich flavor of Earl Grey, her favorite. The fire crackled and Buddy groaned in his sleep, his back leg jumping as he dreamed of chasing some poor rabbit or squirrel in the woods. Anastasia was perched on the back of the sofa, her purring so loud that Alana could hear her from where she sat in her grandmother’s old wing chair on the opposite side of the room. The lights flickered a bit, but Alana was well prepared after spending the first winter without electric about half of the time. She had installed a propane powered generator the following spring which switched on automatically if the power went completely out.
Her cabin was cozy. She didn’t know exactly when it had been built, but she guessed probably in the early nineteen thirties when Lakeview first became a tourist spot. The property sat three miles from the town and about three and a half from the main shoreline but in this spot there was a small inlet the size of a large pond just a few hundred yards behind the barn. The main living area was open with the kitchen to the front on the right side of the entrance with a breakfast bar being the only thing that separated it from the small dining area that held a round table with two ladder back chairs.
The hand hewn, pine cabinets were plentiful and she had a laundry room off the kitchen which had yet more pantry storage. Beyond that area was her bathroom with its antique, claw foot tub and a more recently added modern shower. The sitting area of the living room was to the back of the cabin with a natural stone fireplace on one wall and bookcases tucked under the open staircase that led to the loft above. A door was in the middle of the bookcases and that door led to a small guest room where the previous owners had left twin beds.
A set of French doors faced the back, something that Alana had installed when she moved in so that she could have a good view of the woods from the covered back porch during the summer and from her living room in the winter. She used the space in the loft for her bedroom where she had put a king-sized bed in the middle of the room where the peak of the roof was. Her plan was to someday have a skylight installed in the roof above her bed so that she could see the moon and stars from her bed at night and so that the sun shone down on her every morning.
Generally, she watched television in the evening once the sun went down while she either read a book or did a needlecraft project. Her home was filled with things she had created herself and she loved books, which was evident by the full shelves under the staircase. Tonight, the satellite dish had gone on the fritz long before the rain started, so she turned on the CD player and listened to some relaxing instrumental music while she ate her dinner. Ham and cheese sandwich between two slices of homemade bread and a handful of sweet potato chips dipped in some caramel sauce.
She pondered how to fill the evening ahead. It had gotten dark early because of the approaching storm, a stark reminder that as the coming days passed by, winter would be nearer. When she consulted the earth spirits over the weekend during her Sunday afternoon ritual, they warned of an early winter and urged her to finish up the harvest as quickly as possible. However, the popcorn was not nearly mature enough to harvest and would need at least another month. The pumpkins and squash weren’t completely ripened either and her three apple trees had not fared well this year because of a late freeze that killed most of the early blooms. But she had heeded their warning and picked what she could, spending most of the afternoon on Sunday roasting sunflower seeds and stringing peppers to hang in the laundry room to dry.
The book on the table by her chair beckoned to her. It was a recent best seller by one of her favorite authors, a romance writer who threw in a little bit of paranormal for a twist. She picked up the book and tucked her legs up beneath her, the afghan wrapped around her lower body. Maybe reading something romantic would ease the uncomfortable feeling that still permeated her body.
The sound of the rain on the roof, the crackle of the fire, the softly playing music combined to relax Alana as she read and she felt her eyelids go heavy. Her breathing became shallow and the book slipped from her hands onto her lap as she dozed off.
She was running through the woods toward the small inlet behind the barn. The full moon overhead lit her way through the branches of the trees that had shed a portion of their leaves. Something, someone was compelling her to come.
Help. Help me. Please help me.
A cloud drifted across the moon and the woods was dark for a moment but it didn’t matter, she knew these woods like the back of her hand. One of the gifts of having Earth as her own element. Her bare feet touched the damp ground, the recent rain leaving puddles in some parts of the path that weren’t covered by the trees.
Why am I here? Oh, yes, the compelling subconscious knowledge that she was needed to help someone. Suddenly, the woods closed up and the path disappeared. How could this be? This was a familiar path. Where was Buddy? He had been ahead of me. She tried to call out to him but nothing came out of her mouth. Had she remembered to ground and protect herself before rushing out of the cabin in the middle of the night? She couldn’t remember. The moon disappeared completely, only it wasn’t the clouds that were covering the moon. What is it? It feels bad. Evil. Wicked. She tripped over a root that shouldn’t have been in her path and felt herself falling. Falling. Falling.
The wind picked up outside the cabin and a branch banged against the window, causing Anastasia to come off her perch on the back of the sofa and hiss. It was a chain reaction then, with Buddy stiffening up under her feet and sending out a warning growl. Anastasia growled low in her throat, a warning growl, then arched her back with the hair standing up. Buddy came to his feet and ran toward the door, barking vigorously, the sound echoing throughout the cabin.
Alana awoke with a start and took a relaxing breath when she realized she had fallen asleep and was dreaming. But something was wrong, she could sense it. Buddy was still barking furiously at the door and as she got up, his tail started wagging and he let out a whine about the same time a knock sounded at her door. Buddy whined again and pawed at the door.
She blinked the last remnants of sleep out of her eyes and got up from the chair, crossing the wood floor in her stocking feet. Reaching for the door knob she pushed gently at Buddy with her foot. “Move, you big lug. I can’t open the door with you in front of it.” The dog complied, his whole body wagging now and his tongue lolling out the side of his mouth, ready to give a serious tongue bath to whomever was on the other side of the door.
When she pulled the door open, a tall, familiar form was standing on her porch under the yellowish light. His back was to her, but she recognized the jeans clad figure with the holster at his side. Logan Farmer, the county sheriff, turned to face her and the look on his face was a grim one. “Alana. It’s not good.” He took a breath, his shoulders lifting and falling with the action. “Old Herman Monroe. I got the call about an hour ago.” He looked down at his feet for a moment and Alana followed his gaze.
The boots were covered with mud and something else. Blood. She put a hand out to touch his arm. She and Logan had been friends since they were kids and he had even dated her sister, Teagan, briefly. Very briefly. “What is it, Logan?”
When he looked up at her, his dark eyes were glistening with unshed tears. “He’s dead, Alana. His wife went to search for him when he didn’t come in for dinner and she found him in the barnyard. She thought maybe he slipped in the mud when he was feeding the livestock but when she looked closer, it looked…” His words trailed off and he appeared to be trying to compose himself before he continued.
This time, when Alana touched his arm she closed her eyes and the image came into her mind as clearly as if she had seen it herself. The old man lying in the muddy barnyard with his dead eyes staring up in fear and his throat ripped out. She pulled away, her stomach roiling and tears coming to her eyes. “An animal? How can that be, Logan?”
He lifted his eyes to meet hers. “You know how as well as I do. We all knew this was going to happen.”
She sighed and twisted her hands with worry. Yes, it had been predicted many years ago that something dark would emerge in this place and attempt to wreak havoc on the peaceful quiet of the lake town. It had perhaps been the reason that Rowena had felt drawn here and the reason her sisters had left as soon as they could. Things happened for a reason and the fates always brought what was needed to the point they needed to be.
She reached out and touched Logan’s arm again. “Come in for a few minutes and have something to drink to calm you. I need to gather myself before you take me there.”
Logan stepped inside and closed the door behind him, bending down to ruffle the dog’s coat. Buddy rolled over on his back, his way of directing the location of the ruffling to his belly. Logan smiled wearily. “You big rascal, you couldn’t harm a flea could you?” Glancing up he saw that Alana had returned with a short glass of amber liquid. “Please tell me that’s bourbon and not some sort of tea.”
“Of course, it’s bourbon.” She shoved the glass at him. “Some things just can’t be fixed with tea. Drink up.”
He sighed thankfully and took the glass before he gulped the strong liquor without taking a breath. She knew he never consumed alcohol on duty. Touching his arm. Carefully, this time, she frowned. “I thought you were off duty this weekend?”
He grimaced as he returned the glass to her. “This call came in after I got home to pack up my fishing poles for a weekend on the lake. Lance Myers, one of my college buddies and I were going up on the north shore of the lake to fish and drink beer.” He pulled his cell phone out of his pocket and held up a finger. “I better call him and let him know with what had happened tonight, it looks like the trip is going to have be postponed.
The image of Herman Monroe’s mauled body kept returning to her and reminded her of the old prophecy. A prophecy that had been passed down from Logan’s great grandfather, a Sioux elder and shaman. The legend sent chills up her spine and dread filled her heart.
“Are you ready?” His voice interrupted her thoughts.
“Hold on, let me go get dressed.” She wandered in a daze to her bedroom and changed into jeans, a plaid flannel shirt in fall colors and her feet tucked into a pair of nondescript, black rubber boots that reached almost to her knees. She tossed on a bright orange rain slicker with a hood and returned to the dining room.
“There’s no reason to put this off, Logan. You know we have to get a step ahead of this.” He nodded and stood up from where he had been kneeling by the dog. Somehow, the big mutt seemed to have had a calming effect on him. Or maybe it was the bourbon.
“I know, let’s get going.”
This story is a light paranormal. Even though some of the main characters are Wiccan and are witches with mild magical powers and spells, it’s not a full on magical story. It weaves the magical parts into the story and is gentle enough not to let it overrun the story or the characters. When some strange deaths start happening, Alana and Logan begin to believe that the legend Logan’s grandmother told them when they were young could be coming true. Alana’s mother, Rowena calls and tells Alana she needs to get her two sisters home and she was catching a flight – they needed the strength of all them together if they were to fight the evil.
But is it the evil that is warping the human minds in town, or is it just a twisted killer?
This is part love story, part mild paranormal, and part thriller. It’s a good balance, and even though this wrapped up the arc running in this book, the series main arc still continues. Reviewed by Cyrene