Cover & Excerpt Reveal
by Dani Harper
All she wants for Christmas is a ghost...
Writer Kerri Tollbrook spends her free time counseling the newly departed, but the tall, dark and handsome spirit she meets at the shopping mall claims he’s not dead. Is he just in denial? Or is something more sinister at work?
Firefighter Galen McAllister has felt like The Invisible Man ever since a malicious spell separated him from his still-living body. Kerri is the first person he's met who can actually see him. Now if only he can get her to listen…because the nightmare creature that trapped him between two worlds isn't finished!
Kerri has until Christmas Day to solve the riddle and free Galen–or lose him forever.
Dani Harper's Christmas ghost story returns as a full-length novel! The characters from this popular paranormal romance have haunted their author into resurrecting the story, making it bigger, better…and badder! Originally published as a short story in 2008.
Genre: Paranormal RomancePurchase links: Amazon
Content/Theme(s): Ghosts, Firefighter, Psychic, Magic, Christmas
Publisher: Dani Harper
Excerpt & More
She jumped a little as a sudden deep voice spoke right next to her.
“Are you a gamer?”
A dark gray hoodie hid most of the tall man’s face, but Kerri could feel the color rise in her own. Good grief, was she actually embarrassed to be caught watching this? Darned if her gaze didn’t snap right back to the screen, though. “A little Final Fantasy in college, mostly because my roommate was really into it,” she said. “But my nephew is convinced he wants this game for Christmas, so I thought I’d check it out.”
“This year’s FF rocks, if you’re interested. But trust me, you don’t want Siege in your living room.”
The troll was still standing, despite his wounds—until a flock of gryphons suddenly swooped down. Half-lion and half-eagle, they used their beaks and claws to blind, then disembowel, the hapless monster. Kerri had a fairly strong stomach but still—eeyew! The gryphons proceeded to feast messily on both troll and dragon carcasses, while a pack of were-rats left the forest shadows to devour the fallen soldiers. I was expecting some kind of heroic quest, not a bloodbath. She glanced up at her hooded companion. “What the heck is the point of this game?”
The man shrugged. “Probably to make your wallet lighter. How old is your nephew?”
“Way too young. Hell, I’m too young for this shit. Besides, where’s the warm fuzzy feeling in wrapping up all this gore as a Christmas present?”
“I agree with you.” Kerri’s gaze was still riveted to the screen, but other parts of her were starting to notice that the man had a great voice. Deep, melodic, with just a slight rumble … the kind of voice that begged her to lay her head on his chest and listen as he read a dictionary aloud. The kind of voice that aroused extremely pleasant vibrations within her. “Christmas is supposed to be a magical time of year,” she managed to get out.
“Supposed to be. Not always.”
The sudden sadness in the words jolted her into turning away from the window, and she finally took her first good look at the guy beside her. Kerri’s eyes widened and the video game was completely forgotten. Not because he was broad-shouldered and powerfully built, and the hoodie simply added to his “fresh from the gym” look. Not because his ruggedly handsome features matched his sexy voice. Not even because his eyes were an arresting shade of golden brown. But because she could see right through him, all the way to the nineteen-foot Christmas tree on the other end of the brightly-lit mall.
“You’re a ghost!”
He looked shocked. “You can see me?”
“What’s the big surprise? You didn’t react when I could hear you.”
“It’s not the same. Lots of people hear me, but they usually chalk it up to their own thoughts. I talk and they think they just had a great idea. But nobody sees me. Why aren’t you running away, screaming?”
Kerri shrugged. “I see the dead all the time. It’s what I do.”
“It’s what you—wait a minute, I’m not dead!”
Instinctively, she glanced around. A couple seated on a bench near the food court were watching her and whispering to each other. Great. I look like I’m talking to myself again. At least the incessant Christmas music from the sound system had likely drowned out what she’d been saying. She turned her face back to the game display, lowering her voice just in case. “Look, how ’bout we continue this without an audience? Besides, I have got to put this stuff in the car before my arms get longer.”
Too bad she couldn’t ask the guy to carry her bags. He looked like he could portage a piano without breaking a sweat. Ah well, big and strong didn’t count for a lot once someone had died. It certainly didn’t help them accept their new reality and move on. The Universe must have led the guy to her for help. Kerri’s tired feet protested, but she walked briskly through the mall, anxious to get to the parking lot. The crowds of trudging shoppers yielded to her determination and made way for her.
“I’m not dead you know,” he said frequently. She didn’t dare answer until they’d passed the mall security guard and left through one of the double doors.
“Yes, you are!” she whispered fiercely.
“I’m not. Believe me, I’d know if I was.”
“You’re a disembodied spirit in denial.” She wasn’t usually so blunt, but she was tired and the guy wasn’t budging on his story. “You’re going to make this so much harder for yourself.” And me.
“Crossing over. Moving on. It’s what you need to do.”
Exasperation showed on his face. “What I need is your help, lady.”
“No question about that.” She juggled her purchases around until she could just reach her purse. Before she could make up her mind whether to put the bags in the snow or dig for her keys with her teeth. a man ran past, neatly grabbing the purse and all of the bags from her left hand.
Kerri didn’t hesitate, but ran after him. “Hey! Stop!” She was in good shape but the thief was faster, dodging back and forth through the maze of snow-covered cars until she slipped and went down—
And someone caught her arm before she hit. Her long hair fell across her face as she was eased to the ground, and the helping hand was gone before she could see who it was. What she did see was a sudden furious blast of wind that whipped up snow and ice and gravel from the pavement to form a small whirlwind in front of the fleeing thief. She watched in amazement as the icy vortex pelted the man until he was forced to a stop with his arms over his face—and dropped his ill-gotten prizes.
What the hell? There wasn’t so much as a breeze around Kerri, and a few other shoppers in the lot were staring at the localized phenomena as well. But she wanted her stuff, dammit, so she scrambled to her feet and plunged forward. She was just four car-lengths away when the twister evaporated and the thief scrubbed his eyes clear, swearing. He saw her then and dropped down to gather up the loot—
“Don’t you dare!” she yelled, trying to go faster without wiping out again.
Suddenly her newfound spirit friend appeared beside the purse-snatcher and whispered something in his ear. The thief shrieked like the bags had suddenly become snakes. Crab-walking backwards, he finally flailed to his feet and ran away, stumbling and falling several times as he went.
The ghost stood beside her packages as she approached. His arms were folded and he looked pissed. “What the hell did you think you were doing?”
She stopped. “What?”
“Chasing that perp! For the love of God, he could have had a gun or a knife or he could have just beaten the daylights out of you. What the hell were you thinking?”
“Maybe I thought I could handle it,” she said. “But thanks for the help. It would have been horrible to lose all this—even if I could afford it, I don’t think I could brave another trip to the mall.”
He shook his head. “You’re taking this too lightly.”
“No. I’ll get wobbly-kneed later on when I allow myself to think about it. Right now I have too much adrenaline going through my system. What’s your name?”
“Galen. Galen McAllister. I’m a—well, I used to be a fireman.”
“Kerri Tollbrook. And hey, what you did was pretty darn spectacular. Most ghosts can’t manifest as well as you can.”
“That’s because I’m not a ghost.”
She trudged back to her little red Ford Focus, put the bags in the trunk and slammed the lid. “Many of the newly departed have a hard time adjusting. It’s totally normal.”
“I’m not dead,” he said through clenched teeth. “I just need your help.”
She folded her arms and surveyed him. “If you want help from me, then you’re going to have to take the first step.”
“Admitting that you’re dead.”
“For God’s sake, haven’t you been listening? I’m not dead!” he shouted.
She put her hands up in a show of surrender. “All right, all right, maybe the “d” word is too traumatic for you right now. We’ll slow down and start from scratch, okay? When did you, um, notice a change in your state?”
“Day after Christmas, last year. I woke up and found that I was separated from my body.”
“We have a word for that–”
“Look, I can show you my body. It’s in Sacred Family Hospital. In a bed. Being tended to like a houseplant. Because I’m not dead.”
She stared at him then. “Omigod, are you in a coma?”
Kerri slid into the car and adjusted the steering wheel, turned the ignition.
Galen simply appeared in the passenger seat. “Hey, your teeth are chattering,” he said.
“It just takes a while for the car to warm up.” She was hugging herself and shivering. In the mall, her coat had been far too warm, but it wasn’t helping much now. What she was feeling was the after effects of the attack, not the winter weather. It had shaken her more than she first thought, but still she tried to make light of it. “I swear, it’s c-c-colder inside this t-t-tin box than st-standing outside.”
Suddenly the car was filled with warmth. Kerri found herself drawing balmy air into her lungs and felt her body immediately relax. She touched the steering wheel, then the seat. Both were warm to the touch. The windows cleared as if by magic. “You did this!”
Galen shrugged. “Seemed like a good idea. Since you were, uh, cold.” He made quotation marks in the air with his fingers and she knew he saw right through her bravado as surely as she’d seen through his image at the mall.
“Thanks,” she said quietly. “You know, I’ve never met a spirit with your abilities.”
“Geez, you talk like you meet them all the time.”
“I do. It’s something I’ve been able to do since I was little. I see—
“Dead people. Yeah, I know the movie. Isn’t that kind of creepy?”
“That movie made ghosts look all gory and scary. They’re not. All the women in our family, as far back as anyone can remember, can see ghosts. In my lifetime, that means my grandmother, my mom, my aunts, my cousins. I grew up with this. I was taught not to be afraid of them, that ghosts are just people. And I learned to listen to them and find out what they want.”
“And what do ghosts want?”
“Some just want a little attention. Some have unfinished business that they need to work through, emotions they have to process. Some want to get a message to a loved one. A few—” She looked pointedly at Galen. “—don’t understand they’re dead.”
Without warning, her car shifted into gear, backing out of the stall on its own then began wending its way towards the street. “Hey! Stop that!”
“You don’t believe me, so I’m going to show you. We’re going to the hospital.”
“You can’t just…. Fine, I’ll go, but let me drive my own damn car!”
“Why? I’m a good driver.”
“Oh, all right. Have it your way.”
The engine died and the car came to an abrupt stop near the end of the vast parking lot. Muttering angrily about pushy ghosts, Kerri put her seatbelt on and restarted the vehicle. Out on the street, she threaded her way through traffic, grateful that Spokane’s rush hour was long over, and headed for Sacred Family Hospital.
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