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Moon of Little Winter

Moon of Little Winter by Margaret Marr
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Chely Austin is still hurting from the death of her grandfather. He was the only family she knew. Her birth was the result of a one-night stand, so she never knew her father at all, and her mother disappeared from her life over twenty years ago. Whenever she had asked her grandfather about her mother, he would tell her only that she had left and no more.

Chely’s grandfather left her a big, spooky-looking house no one had ever lived in even though it was furnished right down to the towels in the bathrooms. Still the house couldn’t replace her grandfather and loneliness crept in until the night Ty Walker broke in claiming half the property it was built on belonged to his grandmother.

Ty Walker has spent his life as a loner, never getting too close to anyone because of a special gift passed down from his grandmother. He didn’t figure any woman would hang around once they found out he was a male witch who could shift into a wolf. So his plans were to buy a portion of his grandmother’s property, resell it to give her a comfortable life, and get back out of town as quickly as possible.

When the skeletal remains of children turn up on the property, Ty and Chely begin to fear their grandparents have kept a grisly secret for years, a secret Ty and Chely have blocked from their memory. They unknowingly release the witch from the binding spell, and must now remember what happened all those years ago before the witch regains her full power and draws them into a trap that could end both their lives.

SynergEbooks; May 2006
124 pages; ISBN 9780744310481
Read online, or download in secure PDF format
Title: Moon of Little Winter
Author: Margaret Marr

Cades Cove, North Carolina
Late December

Chely Austin’s eyes fluttered, and then sprang open. A thud echoed from inside the bedroom next to hers. It was a subtle sound, as if a chair had been knocked against the wall and caught just in time to deaden the impact. Her heart fluttered fearfully in her chest.

Someone’s in the house.

Or had she imagined the noise? Maybe she was somewhere between awake and asleep where dreams seemed real. Stirring, she awoke further. No other sound echoed in the huge house. Maybe it had been her imagination or part of a dream. Not likely. Houses may creak and groan, but not thump.

Another thud, followed by a muffled oath, caused her to sit up and reach for the bedside lamp. The covers slipped to her waist as light flooded the cavernous room. Cold tendrils of fear snaked around her heart like the icy fingers of a thick fog. The rapid pulse in her ear drowned out further sound. She took a couple of deep breaths to calm her nerves, and then cocked her head to the side to listen.

Minutes ticked by without another sound. She sucked in another mouthful of air, held it and listened some more.

Footsteps scuffed across hardwood floors.

Those icy fingers coiled toward her stomach.

Beyond a doubt, she was no longer alone in the old house. And whoever was there with her was in the next room.

Opening the nightstand drawer, she pulled out the pistol she kept for protection.

“Didn’t want to have to use this,” she mumbled as she checked the bullets. Curling her fingers around the cold steel, she kept her eye on the door and eased off the bed. Cold air crept across her feet, circled her ankles and crawled up her legs.

It’s always cold in this place.

Spooky, her black cat, yawned and stretched on the bed, but settled back into sleep as if he thought his mistress was some kind of a nut to get up at this ungodly hour and wander about a cold, dark house, especially with someone else walking about in it. Nope, Spooky was staying right where it was warm and safe.

“Some guard kitty you are,” Chely grumbled, but stroked his fur before she tiptoed to the door. She paused to listen again, her breath shallow, and then twisted the doorknob. With slow, quiet moves, she stepped into the darkened hallway. A nightlight glowed at the other end where the attic stairs rose to the third floor, the last few steps swallowed in darkness. The scant light did little to dispel the shadows of night.

The beam of a flashlight spilled through the open door of the room next to hers. It stretched further, and crawled along the floor until it reached the top of the stairs that led to the first level of the house.

Chely swallowed hard as fear raced through her blood. A chill rose along her skin, sending cold shivers across her body.

Who is that? And what are they doing in my house?

She wished like crazy she’d called Verizon, before now, to hook up her phone. 911 would come in handy right at this moment. Dang my hide for procrastinating yet again.

The intruder emerged on the other end of the flashlight and stepped out into the hall. He swung the flashlight’s beam to his left, and then swept it back the other way toward Chely.

Almost strangling on a gulp of air, he took a startled step back. “Damn a’mighty, you scared the hell out of me. Who are you?”

She jerked the gun upward and pointed it in the vicinity of his chest. “Don’t move.”

The man flinched and dropped the flashlight. It rolled to the top of the stairs and stopped, tottering on the edge. He raised his arms to shoulder level, palms outward as if he were under arrest. “Easy now, lady, I mean you no harm.” The red and black-checkered shirt, stretched across his chest, made him appear rustic like the outdoors type. Faded jeans bunched on top of scuffed brown work boots. But that wasn’t what mesmerized her. It was his eyes. Johnny Depp eyes. Even in what little light she could see by, she could tell they were dark and mysterious, and smoldered with something undefined, something she wanted to discover.

She shook herself out of distracting thoughts. “What are you doing here?” The gun trembled in her hands and she cursed her show of fear. She didn’t want this stranger to see her reluctance to shoot him even if she had no choice. Hellfire and damnation. Rattled to the point of insanity, she steadied the gun and tried to gather her thoughts into more positive things. If she was going to die tonight, she certainly didn’t want to go out of this world cussing. It probably wouldn’t be a good thing to meet God with the S word catapulting from her lips.

“I could ask you the same thing.” He dropped his hands.

“Get those hands back up where I can see them!” Chely waggled the gun, showing as much menace as she could muster. No fear, no fear, no fear. The chant returned some of her courage.

“What are you? Some kind of FBI agent?” he asked.

The flashlight rolled back and forth as if an unseen hand shoved it. Its light cast huge, round, moving shadows on the walls. Chely took her attention from the man and frowned at the flashlight with a hint of uneasiness. Had it moved all by itself, or was she just so scared she had imagined it?

Her grip tightened on the gun until it dug into her flesh as she glanced from the flashlight back to the intruder. “Why are you here? This is my house.”

“Your house?”

“My house,” she confirmed.

The man shook his head and mumbled, “Just my luck.”

Chely licked dry lips. She was scared spit-less, but wasn’t about to let him know it, not that he couldn’t already see it for himself.

Was he a thief? He must not have expected anyone to be here. The house had stood empty until a month ago. After her grandfather’s death, she’d gained ownership of it. Tears burned her eyes, but she blinked them away. No matter how much she wished for it, her grandfather couldn’t come back from the dead. She was truly alone now and had to make the best of it.

Dust covered most everything, but there were a lot of valuable antiques strung throughout the house. Her grandfather had been an avid collector of old and forgotten things. If the trespasser had been looking for an easy heist, he must be very disappointed indeed to find her here.

“If you leave now, I won’t call the police.” She hoped he wouldn’t call her bluff. There was no phone service in the house yet, but she prayed he wasn’t privy to that particular bit of information.

“Sorry, no-can-do.”

“What?” Was she going to have to shoot him? Oh, glory be, she hoped not!

“I’ve come to claim what belongs to me.”

Oh, now that was rich! A burglar who thought he had a right to his neighbor’s big screen TV, so to speak. She flicked the safety off the pistol, and prayed she wouldn’t have to fire it. Lord she hadn’t prayed this much in a long time, which would probably make the Lord less inclined to bid her any favors.
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