A Babe in Ghostland

On October 1, 2010, in Contemporary, Paranormal, by alpine

A Babe in Ghostland by Lisa Cach

Megan Barrows has retired from a brief career as a ghost-busting psychic and now uses her sixth sense to fill her Seattle antiques store with objects with happy pasts. After once nearly having the soul sucked out of her by a malevolent spirit, she prefers a quiet life.

Case Lambert is a real estate prospector who restores old houses, then sells them for a profit. He has just bought a dilapidated mansion so amazing that he wants to keep it for himself, but the house appears to be haunted. Seriously haunted. A few inquiries lead him to Megan Barrows.

Megan at first refuses to help, but Case is a master of persuasion. Moving in to the mansion, they discover that one of the ghosts has a thing for Case — and there may be even more amorous spirits inside this veritable paranormal vortex. But it soon becomes clear that no one – dead or alive – can stop Megan and Case from ending up in each other’s arms.

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A Babe in Ghostland

Chapter One

If she’d only had the right type of psychic abilities, Megan Barrows thought later that day, she would have sensed her doom when Case Lambert stepped through the doorway to Antique Fancies. Instead, when the bell over the door dinged and she looked up and saw him, her hands ceased work on the alabaster lamp she was rewiring and her heart seized in her chest.

“Hello,” she said, an uncertain smile on her lips, attraction turning her shy.

A tight smile briefly graced the man’s face.  “Hello.”  His gaze took a long trip over her tall body and a frown formed between his brows as his gaze lingered on her chest. She sidled sideways a few inches, hoping to hide her A-cups behind the inadequate lamp, her attraction to him fading as quickly as it had come.  So he was one of those sort.

The man looked away, turning his attention to the late Victorian tea table beside him, its top loaded with
silver candlesticks.  He picked one up and turned it over to examine the hallmarks on the bottom, then flipped it around, eyes narrowing as he scrutinized the plating where it had begun, ever so slightly, to wear off of the copper core.

Megan pretended to turn her attention back to rewiring the lamp, just as the man pretended to examine candlesticks. He was a big guy:  6’3 according to the height markings on the edge of her door, and with a solid broadness that looked like years of laboring muscle; no youthful lankiness here.  His squarely masculine face showed signs of weathering, and his short brown hair was mussed.  She had a brief flash of him driving with the window to his pickup down, elbow resting on the sill, wind in his hair, howling along to a country song about the cheatin’ woman who done him wrong.  His jeans and battered leather shoes, and the faded polo shirt with a breast pocket made lumpy by some object, all hinted at someone in one of the  trades.

One thing for sure:  he wasn’t a cubicle monkey from Microsoft.

He set down the candlestick and wandered farther into the shop, pausing to stare into a lighted glass case
full of small bits and pieces:  thimbles, lorgnettes, spoons, figurines, vases.  Perhaps he was looking for a gift for his wife.

She glanced at his left hand.  No ring.

A gift for his girlfriend, then?  Mother?  Aunt Esmerelda?

He left the glass case and wandered closer to where she stood at her work table/cashier’s counter, his big frame feeling oversized in the crowded, feminine confines of her shop.  The natural assurance of his stance, the silent assumption that he was master of his domain – master of her domain – grated upon her, reminding her of the womanizing dolt for whom she’d worked while putting herself through college.

He made a show of casting his gaze over her shop. “You’ve got a nice place here – nicer than I expected.  Judging from the outside, I thought it would be full of the usual thrift-store crap that passes for antiques these days.”

Megan narrowed her eyes.

“I must have driven by a hundred times, but never stopped,” he went on, and ran a fingertip over the gracefully carved line of a chair back near the counter.  He met her gaze, his grey eyes direct.  “I should have.  There are beautiful things here.”

Attraction shot through her again despite her every thought against it.  She blushed and looked down at the lamp beneath her hands, then away, not sure where to set her gaze, afraid he might see that his words had affected her. “The shop belonged to my mother. She started it when I was a child.”

“’Belonged’.  Did she retire?”

She glanced up at him.  “Died.  Two years ago.”

In his eyes she saw empathy, the tightness round his mouth loosening.  “I’m sorry.  I lost mine a few years ago, too.”

She nodded, acknowledging the shared pain. “But I have the shop, so in some ways it feels like I see her
every day.”

He raised a brow and looked like he was about to say something, then shook his head.  A moment later he
asked, “So can you make a living at this business? Doesn’t sound like it pays too well, especially not in this economy.  Haven’t most of your colleagues gone out of business?”

She forced a smile at the question.  “I get by.  Can I help you find something?  Were you looking for something in particular?”

He ignored her question, and made a show of again gazing round the shop.  “You ever wonder what the long-dead owners of this stuff must be thinking, to see their things for sale?”

She rolled her eyes.  The guy had one great question after another, didn’t he?  “I suspect the dead have better things to do than watch over their chipped teacups and sprung chairs.”

His brows rose and then he laughed, the loudness of it startling her, the whole room seeming to shake with the vibrations of his mirth.  “So what do you think the dead are doing with their time?” he asked when the storm had settled.

A wisp of suspicion floated into Megan’s mind.  A man like this, discussing the dead with her, of all people? “I’m sure they’re fighting over the best dark hallways and attics to haunt, debating the
merits of cemeteries on Halloween, etcetera, etcetera.”

“You don’t take it seriously?”

“Do you want me to?”

The small frown reappeared between his brows.  “You must have been in a lot of old houses.  You ever see a ghost?”

She tugged at the fresh wires coming out the top of the lamp and began attaching them to a new socket.  “In most cases, ghosts can be explained away rationally.”

“So you’ve never seen one?”

She glanced at him.  His expression was serious.  “Have you?” she asked back.

He looked away from her, towards the front picture window and its display tableau of desk, chair, and leather library books, a bust of Dante on the floor.  When he spoke, his voice was quiet.  “Maybe I’ve experienced something.  But nothing I’d swear to.”

Megan felt the lure of the bait he’d just trailed before her, and with it, the small seed of suspicion that had been planted in her mind sprouted leaves.  He’d heard something about her, that made him come in and expect her to want to talk about ghosts.

His statement begged for follow-up questions, for her to lean forward and say, ‘Really?  What happened?’  But did she want to get involved in his problems?  No, although he was shockingly good-looking for a dunderheaded brute.  And there was always curiosity to satisfy.

She parted her lips to speak, and then caution laid hold of her tongue, forbidding her from taking the tempting bait.  “Was there something special you were looking for?” she asked, nodding towards the shop at large.

He stood straighter, her answer clearly not the one he was expecting.  Then he shook his head and laughed again, the sound softer this time and strangely warming.

He dug into his breast pocket.  “Would you be able to give me an appraisal on this, and maybe tell me something about it?” he asked, pulling a small gold pocket watch out of his shirt and handing it to her.

“I think so,” she said, surprised he had a legitimate reason for visiting her shop.  She’d convinced herself he wanted to pick her brain about ghosts. That’s what she got for thinking too much of herself and her talents!

Megan took the watch and let it lie flat in her palm, feeling its heavy weight, the gold warm from his body.  She ran her finger over the small dents along one edge, and smiled.

“It’s a lady’s watch, meant to be pinned to her bodice.  1880, 1885, I think.  English.”  She wound it a few turns and heard the soft, regular ticking begin.  “Still works. It’s a lovely little thing, probably worth about three hundred dollars.”  She started to hand it back to him.

“How much would you give me for it?”

She pushed her hand at him again, offering the watch.  “You don’t want to sell this.”

“Sure I do.”

She shook her head.  “Someday you’ll have a daughter who’d love to have a piece of family history like this.”

“Family history?”

“I assume it belonged to your grandmother. Or a great aunt,” she added, wanting to make the ownership sound more like a guess than it was.

He stared at her a long moment, then nodded. “It was my maternal grandmother’s. But I have no use for it, and I’m not one for holding onto something just for the sake of it.  It’s just a watch.  And it’s dented.”

“But you know what those dents are from, don’t you?”

He shook his head.

“They’re the marks of a teething baby.  Your teeth?  While your grandmother held you?  You – or someone – used her watch as a teething ring.”  She shrugged, knowing she had sounded too certain.  And she wasn’t that certain.  Her imagination often led her down the wrong path.  “It’s an educated guess.  She must have been a doting grandmother to allow it, if I’m right.”

“Just a guess, huh?  A pretty damn good guess!”

Megan crossed her arms over her chest. “You knew they were your teeth marks.”

“You’re the first antique ‘expert’ to know what those dents were from.”

“You were testing me?”

“Just like to know who I’m dealing  with,” he said, grinning.  “What else can you tell me about the watch?”

“What do you want to know?”

“I don’t know.  Surprise me.  Do some Sherlock Holmes-like deducing.”

“Sherlock Holmes?”

“Yeah.”

“I’m not a detective.”

“Come on.  Try.

“He was fiction.”

“You surprised me with the tooth marks.  Do it again.”

Was he serious?

Well, what the hell.

She enclosed the watch between her palms and closed her eyes.  The trick was to let the images and snatches of sound come to her, not to force them.  Not to think. She made her mind into a blank silver screen.

Bit by bit, a vague story began to emerge.

“I can tell you what anyone else might guess, given the probabilities,” she said, opening her eyes.  “Your grandmother’s family emigrated to the US. She was moderately well-off and she valued her family.  She cared for people, both emotionally and physically.”

That was what she said aloud, but in her mind a much fuller picture of a woman had emerged:  a girl of thirteen coming across the ocean with her mother; the girl growing into a young woman who took up  nursing and married a doctor; the young woman becoming a middle-aged widow who held together her family with every last ounce of her love.

“That’s it?” he said. “’They were immigrants’ and ‘she valued family’? Anyone could have guessed that.”

“Which is what I told you before I spoke, in case you’ve forgotten.”  She stared at him in silent challenge.

After a long moment he reached out and took the watch back.  “Sure you don’t want to buy it?” he asked quietly.  “A hundred bucks?”

“I wouldn’t take it for five cents. Please keep it; I’m sure your grandmother would have wanted you to pass it down.  Someday you’ll be glad you still have it.”

“Is that a prediction?”

“It’s experience.”

“My grandmother didn’t… say that to you?”

Suspicion grew a bud and bloomed.  “How could she?”

“I was told that you might have access to… The Other Side,” he said, hunching close to her, his eyes widening.

She stared at him.

He stared back.  A smile cracked his composure and he stood straight. “I call it that for lack of a better term.  You probably call it the ‘Sixth Plane of Ethereal Existence’ or something.”

She set her jaw.  “Just what is it that you want, Mr.-?”

“Lambert.  Case Lambert,” he said, sticking out his hand.  “And you’re Megan Barrows?”

She frowned at him.

“You aren’t Megan Barrows?”  His expression lightened, delight sparking the grey depths of his eyes.

“I’m afraid I am.”  She shook his hand, watching with her own delight as the disappointment pulled at his  features.  Her perverse enjoyment faded as she felt the warmth and strength of his hand surrounding her own, his calluses rough against her skin.  A zing of a different delight went straight down to her loins.  How long had it been since she’d been with a man, his body warming hers against the night?  Too long.

His grip was firm but gentle, showing he knew it was a woman’s hand he held, with finer bones than the meaty paws of men. No sixth sense information came to her from his touch; it was not the way her gift worked.  The living kept their secrets from her, and she was left like any other woman with only her
native skill at gathering impressions.  If she could touch a frequently used personal object of his, however, she might get somewhere.

He released her hand. “What is it you’re looking for, Mr. Lambert?” Megan asked, cradling her own hand against her stomach as if she could hold the warmth of his touch.

“I’m looking for you.”

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Reviews :: “A Babe in Ghostland”

“…a rip-roaring ghost story, complete with good and evil.”

Carol Carter, Romance Reviews Today

__________

“A Babe in Ghostland mesmerized me. I couldn’t put it down. Lisa Cach has written a charismatic tale which pulls the reader in, tantalizes, intrigues, and at the end, satisfies. Don’t expect to find a dry spot in order to put the book down so you may get some work done. There are no dry spots. No middle-of-the-book syndrome and no rushed ending to ruin the experience. A Babe in Ghostland is a winner.”

Five Roses!

Rho, A Romance Review

__________

” A Babe in Ghostland is a fun ghost story with a unique cast of characters and a savvy plot that readers will enjoy. Cach writes a quick read that draws the reader in from the first page and with two main characters, Case and Megan, to add depth readers will find this an enjoyable escape.  10/10″

Tracy, Paranormal Romance Writers

“A Babe In Ghostland is like… I don’t know, Ms Cach’s attempt to make The Amityville Horror the new Titanic or something. Whatever it is, it works for me.”

Rating: 88

Mrs. Giggles, MrsGiggles.com

__________

” …sub-genre readers will enjoy Lisa Cach’s fascinating tale of ghosts trying to prevent a mortal romance.”

Harriet Klausner

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“The tone of this tale is light hearted with lots of extremely witty dialogue. I was hooked from page one. The ghosts are as malevolent as one can imagine and the solution to the haunting was well done and made compelling reading.

Cach’s characters are so likable that it is just great fun to follow their story to a very believable happily- everafter ending.”
Linda Hurst, The Best Reviews

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“A Babe in Ghostland has a Haunting of Hill House premise with a whittled down cast. The end result is more comic and over-the-top than creepy, but overall it’s quite entertaining.

It’s hard to say exactly what Cach’s gift is. Her prose is straightforward with touches of humor here and there; it’s certainly not literary or stylized. Yet her characters always seem un-cliché. They tend to have little flaws or characteristics that keep them recognizably human.

Grade: B”

Rachel Potter, All About Romance

__________

“A Babe In Ghostland is a sometimes funny, sometimes creepy story that kept me intrigued.”

Nanette, Joyfully Reviewed

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“Dear Ms. Cach,

I’ve been following your writing career for years now and one thing’s for certain, you don’t just write the same old same old. Even when you revisit certain themes, such as ghosts, you handle the issue in a new and different ways….  it’s very readable, the woo-woo stuff seems well thought out and I enjoyed the hero and heroine’s relationship. B for this one.”

Jayne, DearAuthor.com

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