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Book 1: A Dark And Twisted Heart
Katrina is so beautiful, she's almost perfect. She only has two flaws. She's possessive. And she's dead.
William adores Katrina, but he almost forgets about her when he meets Adelle, with her gentle smile and winsome ways. So what's he to do? He certainly can't be faithful to a dead girl.
Even though he loves her, so much so he visits her grave every day. Even though she haunts him and constantly reminds him of the terrible thing he did.
Even though she might just drive him to do something terrible again. Very soon.
BOOK 1: CHAPTER ONE EXCERPT
Every time I walk through the woods, I see her face. Hidden among the leaves and the bark, her hair twined with wind and cloud. I pretend she's walking with me, telling me she loves me again. And when the wind turns cold, as it always does for I stay much too long in the forest when I know she is there, I huddle and shiver and long for her arms about me.
She is a wraith. A dead thing, long gone from this world.
I know it, for I buried her in the ground myself. But she doesn't believe she's dead, doesn't mind the jagged hole on the side of her skull. She even tips her head toward me at times, showing off the wound made by my own fists.
"Where are you going with that shovel, William?" she asks me now, skipping along at my side. Her arms hang limp and her gait is unnatural, one foot turned to the side.
I do my best to ignore her, but as usual, I fail.
"Are you off to kill another fair maiden?" Sunlight spills through the leaves as she speaks, revealing her ever-present toothy grin, fleshy lips curled back and turning dark from decay.
"We both know you were never fair," I answer.
She laughs, a sensual throaty sound made even more desirable in death. Part of her is horrid and part of her makes my heart beat faster, every time she's near. Even in death, she captivates me.
"Isn't this the path to Adelle's house?"
I don't answer. Instead, I shift the shovel from my right shoulder to my left, hoping the blade will block out her face. It doesn't work.
"Didn't the two of you used to sneak around together, just before you murdered me?"
"No!" But I answer too quickly and a fine sweat breaks out on the back of my neck. She's humming a tune, something mournful and soft, her face lifted to the occasional sunbeams that break through the canopy of branches overhead. It's as if she craves the sunlight. Sometimes she'll stop to dance in a clearing, bathed in yellow-white light.
But I know her real body lies in a grave, not far from here. No part of her is exposed. I make sure of it, visiting the site several times a week, covering and recovering the mound that's sometimes disturbed by scavengers. I even drop a handful of violets there from time to time.
She's wearing white violets in her hair right now, as if she woke from her earthen grave and crawled out, accidentally catching the flowers in the dark locks that tumble down to her waist.
"You think I'm a fool," she whispers, leaning nearer. "But I'm not. I know all about you and Adelle."
I stop, pull a handkerchief from my pocket, then wipe it across my brow.
"She was my best friend," she reminds me. As if I could forget that detail.
Adelle's cottage comes into view when we start walking again, smoke curling from the chimney. A slender shadow passes behind the kitchen window. She's expecting me. We've been seeing each other secretly every fortnight since Katrina's disappearance, on the pretext of comforting one another. As soon as her father leaves on a hunting trip, she hangs a lace shawl out her bedroom window.
That's when I come to visit.
Our time together has been sweet. Maybe not as sweet as the moments I spent with Katrina, but Adelle has much to offer. And she's truly heartbroken over Katrina's mysterious disappearance. The first night we were together, she spent hours wrapped in my arms, weeping.
Thankfully, she doesn't cry as much anymore.
"She knows about me and you," Katrina breathes in my ear. "Even though you made me promise to keep everything a secret, well, you know how it is with best friends."
"No, I don't," I say, staring into her glassy eyes.
"We tell each other everything."
My hands tighten on the shovel handle. "Adelle's convinced you ran off with a boy from a nearby village."
"She's lying. She knows I was with you, right up until the end."
"That's not good, Katrina."
"Of course, it's not. You can't have my father or the sheriff suspecting you of mischief. They might have to hang you and then bury your body far away. I'd never see you again."
I can't tell if her voice catches with sorrow or if there's some other emotion she's hiding. But I do know that she's never lied to me. Not even after she became a ghost. She's always been honest to a fault.
"Are you saying Adelle knows that I—that you're—"
"It's hard for you to say the words, isn't it? I'm dead and you killed me. And yes, she knows." As soon as Katrina finishes speaking, she gets distracted by the trees swaying in the breeze and the changing pattern of light that sweeps toward us. She lifts her head toward the sun, an almost rapturous expression on her face—like she's in the midst of a holy experience. A few minutes pass before we're standing in shadows again, me with a dark look in my eyes and her staring at the cottage.
"That's why you brought the shovel, isn't it?"
The door to the cottage opens and Adelle steps outside, waving to me. For a heartbeat, I wonder if she can see Katrina at my side. Then I realize that, no, of course, she can't. No one can see Katrina, but me.
"It's not why I brought the shovel," I mutter under my breath. "She wanted me to help her in the garden."
But as I walk away from Katrina, a smile for Adelle on my lips, I begin to wonder. Maybe my dead lover is right. Maybe I've had something else planned all along.
All content © 2017, Merrie Destefano