Girl Unseen

Book Three in the award-winning Beyond the Grave Series

Pia has made a dead girl a promise. One that she is determined to keep. But is she prepared for the nightmare that’s about to be unleashed?

 

For paranormal fans, Girl Unseen can’t be beat! The depth of emotion with which Athena Daniels fills her characters provides such intensity that you feel their pain and heartache… the ending will have you holding your breath. This is definitely a must-read and is a perfect stand-alone even though there are two previous volumes in the Beyond the Grave series. Just make sure to leave the lights on! Fabulous read! I couldn’t put this down and can’t wait for more!” 5 Star, Readers Favorite Official Reviewer, Melinda Hills.

5 Star, Readers Favorite

“Athena Daniels has delivered a captivating read in Girl Unseen. Athena Daniels has earned and cemented her place among the best paranormal and romance authors I have come across. She has mastered the art of bringing her characters to life and keeping them human and relatable. For example, Pia, the pivotal character, has all these powers and yet she remains vulnerable. Athena Daniels has mastered the art of blending the extraordinary with the ordinary to create a perfect character that readers can easily connect with. And even more, she has mastered the art of capturing moments so the reader can feel the characters’ raw emotions at every turn.” 5 Stars, Readers Favorite, Official Review, Faridah Nassozi

 

Athena Daniels has a powerful voice which comes across neatly and clearly, pulling the reader into a somewhat unnerving world where the dead meet the living. Her characters are very compelling and memorable… The writing is lofty, crisp, and highly descriptive. The story seems to flow very naturally, but the plot is complex, leaving readers with a lot of spooky, “Oh no,” and “wow” moments.” 5 Stars, Readers Favorite, Official Review, Romuald Dzemo

 

Girl Unseen – 5 Stars (TRR) THE ROMANCE REVIEWS – TOP PICK

Athena Daniels has once again done a magnificent job of creating chilling situations that will make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. The pacing is smooth, with no editing or grammatical errors that I noticed, but then I was completely hooked in the story. I have to say – the doll? FREAKED ME OUT!!! And yet I couldn’t stop reading, that is how hooked I was. This is a strong book, with a horrific situation talked about in enough detail to shock and sadden, but without it being gratuitous.

As previously said, you could read this as a standalone, but seriously, why do that? You are missing out on an amazing author and creepy, paranormal, scary stories that are also full of hope. Absolutely recommended by me. – 5 Stars – (TRR) The Romance Reviews Top Pick.

To read full review, click here:

 

Girl Unseen is a powerfully emotional book; the story of Sarah, the spirit who Pia has to help find peace, is absolutely heartwrenching. Athena Daniels has a genuine gift for writing supernatural events fitting into the everyday in a believable way, and for writing two people finding love with each other in the midst of extraordinary events.

I loved Girl Unseen just as much as I loved the first two in the series, and I will highly recommend them to anyone who likes romance and the paranormal.

—5 Stars, Brutally Honest Reviews

 

Some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried…

Psychic medium Pia Williams has made a dead girl a promise. One that she is determined to keep. But she soon discovers she has far more to fear from the living than she ever did from the dead…

When Pia Williams, a gifted psychic medium, is awakened in the dead of night by the traumatized spirit of a young girl, her search to uncover the truth begins. The more Pia learns about the girl’s gruesome fate, the more determined she becomes to bring those responsible to justice. But is she prepared for the shocking truth of what she’s about to expose?

With more questions than answers, one thing becomes crystal clear: The unseen girl is uniquely powerful, and she’s killing from beyond the grave. Who—or what—is the girl now?  What really happened to her? And how far will Pia go to help her get revenge?

Accused of a murder the spirit commits, Pia reaches out to the only man who can help her: ex-Special Operations detective Nate Ryder. A man who is as dangerous to her heart as the situation she seeks his help with. Nate would move mountains for the woman he loves, but how can he protect her against forces he can’t even see?

As Pia and Nate are swept into an unpredictable situation brimming with dark, evil intent, they soon discover they have more to fear from the living than they ever did from the dead…

“…one of the spookiest paranormal stories I’ve read in some time and that’s saying quite a lot considering I grew up reading Poe, Lovecraft and Machen.”- Jack, 5 Star Readers Favorite.

 

 

 

Nate was past merely wanting Pia. He physically ached. The fire burning inside him was soul deep. But she didn’t trust him. Not yet. When the time was right, she’d surrender to him. On his terms.

 

When he finally had her naked beneath him, emotionally and physically, her acquiescence would be absolute.

 

 

Pia had asked for him for help, and Nate wanted to be the one to help her. He would move mountains to find what she needed. Yes, damn it, I want to be her fucking hero.

EXCERPT, Girl Unseen

Pia was sitting and staring out the window of the recently renovated lighthouse keeper’s cottage when she and the entity finally connected.

 

Though Pia’s physical body was in the room, her mind was elsewhere, listening to a tragic echo from long ago. Images, objects, places, were coming to her. She strained to listen, struggled to find coherence in the disjointed pictures
pressing into her mind.

Reaching out through an otherworldly resonance, a hazy imprint of souls departed, Pia found a clarity. The spirit who sought her. As though it were her own, anguish tore through Pia’s body. Such heartbreaking despair. A sense of
hopelessness, bitter loneliness. Abject misery.

Who was calling out to her? A woman? No, younger… a girl.
The footsteps crossing the attic were hers.

There was something important, something urgent, the girl wanted Pia to know. The cause of her pain.

What is it? Tell me.

Concentrating harder, Pia pressed her fingertips over her eyes. Her chest squeezed, and she felt overwhelmed with suffering not her own. She had to push through the thick saturation of emotion, reach out through the anguish with her mind.
The girl was crying. Not a trickle of tears, but huge, gut-wrenching sobs, the kind that ripped your heart out.

What happened to you?

A door slammed, and Pia jumped, the sound coming from overhead momentarily confusing the past and present.
Lowering her head into her hands, Pia retrained her focus.

Ignored the pain she felt as keenly as though it were her own.
Show me a little more. Just enough to see.

The blade of a knife, an ornate wooden handle carved into the shape of an eagle.

A mouse. A filthy, soiled mattress. A doll with long blonde hair. Shackles and chains.

And blood, so much blood…..

EXCERPT, Girl Unseen

He took a step toward her, closing the distance she’d put between them. “I don’t understand the problem,” he repeated.
“Look, Nate.” Pia began. Swallowed. Calm down, you idiot! He’s just a man. “I don’t want to sound rude, or appear ungrateful—”
“It’s okay. I’m used to it.”
Pia inwardly winced at his reference to their conflict six months ago, but she caught a hint of humor in his eyes. “I’m sorry. Truly. And I’m sorry about that last time I saw you as well. There’s just something about you that…” Pia broke off, searching for the right word.
Nate’s lip twitched. “Yeah. There’s something about you too.”
Pia glanced up, and their eyes held a moment. It was nice to think Nate might be just as confused about her as she was about him.
“I appreciate you coming, Nate. For getting me out of there.” She waved her hand in the direction of the station. “But I really want to go to Mark and the team.”
To the familiar. To where she could breathe and get her thoughts under control.
“They’ll be as worried about me as I am about them,” she added.
He eyed her, released a breath. “If that’s what you want.”
It was what she needed. “It is.”
“Then that’s where we’ll go.” He paused, then grinned. “You know, you’re still as frustrating as you always were.”
A smile kicked at the corners of her lips. “Likewise.”
Across the street, a young girl was watching them closely. Pia saw her out of the corner of her eye, but when she turned to look, the girl was no longer there.
She’d gotten only a glimpse of pale skin, a black vacant stare. But then she heard a familiar voice in her mind.
Why won’t you help me? Why won’t anyone help me?
Pia shivered.
It was the entity. And it seemed to have fixated on Pia. It was following her.
Who—or what—was Sarah? And what did she want?….

EXCERPT, Girl Unseen

Pia was not a fool. She knew full well she was in control only because he allowed it. So she ran with the advantage, determined to make the most of it. She took her time. Savored the feel of his skin under her fingertips, the way his muscles
rippled as she traced patterns along the ridges of his abdomen. His masculinity was rougher, raw and primal in his heightened state of arousal.
Leaving her corset on, she unclipped the elastic at the shoulders, turning it strapless. She took a deep breath, knowing her full breasts would puff out above the tight material. Nate hissed in a breath. The scent of his warm skin was
intoxicating. Pia cleared her mind and focused.
She placed a finger across his lips, an instruction that from now on, he was to be silent. He immediately opened his mouth, drew her finger in and sucked. A streak of white heat tore through her body like a bolt of lightning, and it was her
turn to suck in a breath. She quickly removed her finger and waved it in front of his face. “No.”
His eyes met and held hers. Holding his gaze, she placed her hands over his lips, and this time he let her. “No talking,” she whispered.
She lowered her head, letting her hair trail across his skin as she kissed and licked his naked body. Her mouth ravaged every inch of his heated skin.
“You take my breath away,” he said, his voice low and husky.
Pia ignored the thrill his words gave her and shot him a warning glance. “What did I say about talking?”
His lips gave a slight twitch, as she felt his desire for her intensify. It was with some satisfaction that she unintentionally read that Nate had never relinquished control in the bedroom before. He was not a man who liked to be outside his
comfort zone. Especially in the bedroom, where by nature he took charge.
And yet he was trusting her. And enjoying the hell out of it.
She leaned forward, his darkened eyes lowering to he cleavage. His fingers flexed, causing the metal cuffs to jangle.
“You want to touch them?” Pia said, trailing her fingers across the soft skin pillowing out the top of the corset. She raised her arms above her head, felt the
corset slide farther down.
Nate cleared his throat, then raised one brow as if to say, I’m allowed to at least do that, aren’t I?
Pia smiled. Brought one hand behind her and slapped the side of his thigh.
Hard. A warning. A reminder of who was in charge. Nate grinned wickedly, and she knew he was planning what to do with her when he was free. But for now, he was trapped.
And all hers…….

Excerpt – GIRL UNSEEN

Hidden in the shadows of our everyday lives, invisible forces travel amongst us. The paranormal is entwined within the fabric of our very existence. We share this earth with things most cannot see. Others choose not to see.

Some don’t get that freedom.

 

Chapter One

Two a.m.

Lighthouse keeper’s cottage

Leeuwin Road, Limestone Coast

Western Australia

Soft footsteps crossed the timber floor overhead. Pia Williams, psychic medium for the paranormal-investigations TV show, Debunking Reality, looked up at the rough-hewn ceiling.

Are you the one trying to reach me?

There was no answer, just as there was no one in the attic. No one in the house, other than her and the team.

The footsteps were the first sign of paranormal activity. Well, the first sign the others would have picked up on. Ever since Pia had entered the house, something, someone, had been trying to reach her, snatching at her with wispy fingers, trying to pierce the veil that separated the living from the dead.

A gust of wind whipped against the weathered wooden exterior of the 1896 timber cottage before dropping off abruptly. Like the slap of an angry hand.

Across a small cove, a short distance away, Cape Leeuwin Lighthouse stood, proud and tall, glowing stark white against the stormy black of the unsettled sky.

Many memories were buried within the walls of this haunted old cottage. Few of them good.

Tonight, however, they were of little interest to Pia.

There was something else she was supposed to see… something that fluttered just out of reach.

Pia was sitting and staring out the window of the recently renovated lighthouse keeper’s cottage when she and the entity finally connected.

Though Pia’s physical body was in the room, her mind was elsewhere, listening to a tragic echo from long ago. Images, objects, places, were coming to her. She strained to listen, struggled to find coherence in the disjointed pictures pressing into her mind.

Reaching out through an otherworldly resonance, a hazy imprint of souls departed, Pia found a clarity. The spirit who sought her. As though it were her own, anguish tore through Pia’s body. Such heartbreaking despair. A sense of hopelessness, bitter loneliness. Abject misery.

Who was calling out to her? A woman? No, younger… a girl.

The footsteps crossing the attic were hers.

There was something important, something urgent, the girl wanted Pia to know. The cause of her pain.

What is it? Tell me.

Concentrating harder, Pia pressed her fingertips over her eyes. Her chest squeezed, and she felt overwhelmed with suffering not her own. She had to push through the thick saturation of emotion, reach out through the anguish with her mind.

The girl was crying. Not a trickle of tears, but huge, gut-wrenching sobs, the kind that ripped your heart out.

What happened to you?

A door slammed, and Pia jumped, the sound coming from overhead momentarily confusing the past and present.

Lowering her head into her hands, Pia retrained her focus. Ignored the pain she felt as keenly as though it were her own.

Show me a little more. Just enough to see.

The blade of a knife, an ornate wooden handle carved into the shape of an eagle. A mouse. A filthy, soiled mattress. A doll with long blonde hair. Shackles and chains.

And blood, so much blood.

What are you showing me? Pia asked without words. Who are you?

“Pia?” Someone was shaking her. Shouting in her ear.

“Go away!” She threw out an arm. She wanted to see. To understand.

“Pia!” Someone slapped her face. Her eyes sprang open, the sting jarring her back into the present.

“Damn it, Pia. Look at me.” Mark Collins, Debunking Reality’s lead investigator, was staring into her eyes, his hand warm and firm against her stinging cheek. “You’re scaring me.”

Pia brushed away a rush of annoyance. Mark had every right to be concerned. She took a series of deep breaths and got herself under control. The fragments of herself began to regather as she shrugged off the heavy sadness of the past.

“I’m good,” she said.

Mark’s brows drew together into a frown, his eyes scanning her face.

“I heard activity in the attic,” Pia said. “Shouldn’t you be checking out the slamming door and the footsteps?”

Debunking Reality had been hired by Chad and Monique Reynolds to investigate claims of possible poltergeist activity in the house. The Reynolds had two daughters, Cassandra, nine years old, and Rebecca, who was only seven. The activity had increased to such a degree that the parents were concerned about their girls’ safety.

The team could now remove “possible” from that statement. Something was definitely sharing this house with the family. It was the team’s job to investigate what. And, if possible, cleanse it from the Reynolds’ home.

“I was on my way up when I saw you with your head in your hands,” Mark said. “You almost fell off the chair.”

“I did?” She must have been more out of it than she’d realized.

Overhead, the floor creaked, and a muffled cry seemed to reverberate out of the ceiling.

“Oh, for heaven’s sake. Stop fretting about me and get up there.”

“I’m still worried about you.”

Pia stood, wiped her damp palms down the sides of her jeans, and gave him a brief smile. “I’m fine. Now go.”

As a team of seasoned investigators, it was rare for one of them to be overcome or affected during an investigation. But it had happened on occasion. And Pia’s abilities made her more susceptible to certain energies than the others were. Mark had mistaken her deep concentration for something more sinister, and after a particularly terrifying experience the team had had six months ago, he had good reason.

Something shattered and broke upstairs. Like glass being dropped on the floor. No, it was angrier. Like glass being hurled against a wall.

Mark briefly touched Pia’s shoulder. “That’s my cue. Shout if you need me.” He rushed to the stairs, signaling for Ryan Donovan, the team’s cameraman, to resume focusing the handheld night-vision video recorder on him.

“The time is two-thirty a.m.,” Mark spoke to the camera, “and we’re heading upstairs to investigate a series of unexplained crashes and doors slamming coming from the attic. The house has been in complete lockdown since eight p.m. and is still secure. As you can see, we are all present and accounted for, here on the first floor.”

Ryan panned the camera, showing the positions of Mark, Pia, and Joe Clarke, their electronics whiz, monitoring the various static night-vision cameras positioned around the house. “Joe, grab that spare camera and join us,” Mark said. “I want to maximize our chances to capture everything possible tonight.”

“Coming, Tom?” Mark called from the stairs.

With a nod, Tom Kelly followed the team upstairs. Sixty-five years old, with leathery skin, a white beard, and hard eyes, Tom looked every inch the weathered rock lobster fisherman he’d once been. Tom had stayed in the cottage on occasion with the original owners, Simon and Meg Farrell, thirty-plus years ago. Rock lobster, or crayfish or crays, as the locals liked to call the tasty saltwater shellfish, was a profitable business, and Tom had been part of Simon Farrell’s cray-fishing crew.

Mark had talked Tom into doing a set of pre-investigation interviews to add a little background to tonight’s show. Pia wasn’t sure why Tom was still here; it was rare for Mark to allow others to stay after the lockdown, not wanting to risk interference or contamination of evidence.

Something about Tom Kelly raised the hairs on the back of Pia’s neck. Survival instinct. And Pia trusted hers implicitly. She just didn’t know why Tom Kelly stirred hers. Yet.

The team’s voices faded away as they moved upstairs with Tom. Pia stayed by herself on the ground floor, grateful for the moment alone. The truth was, she was still shaken from what she had seen in the vision.

What she had felt.

The girl had reached out to her, tried to give her a message.

The air in the room turned still.

Something was… off.

Muted sounds of talking and movement filtered down from the guys upstairs. Pia’s stomach clenched. With every breath she took, her sense of unease increased.

A tingle slid across the skin of her cheek and over the back of her neck. Pia let out a breath. The connection she’d made with the girl had not been fully severed.

Not one to tolerate failure, Pia wouldn’t leave tonight without understanding not only who was at unrest in the house, but why.

Breathing deeply, Pia once again reached out with her mind and opened herself up. She likened the process to becoming a receiver of a radio station, tuning herself in to a frequency slightly out of phase with normal reality.

Feeling herself being called toward something, she followed her intuition. She picked up a night-vision camcorder and used its greenish-hued viewer to navigate the dark room. She found herself standing in the doorway to Cassandra Reynolds’ bedroom. The room was typical of your average nine-year-old girl—stuffed toys and dolls everywhere. Why was Pia being drawn here?

The team had been in the house for over six hours so far, video rolling continuously from seven separate units and eight audio recorders. Tomorrow, Joe and Mark would begin the arduous task of replaying the footage, editing it down, and overlaying the highlights with Mark’s commentary to create a concise, forty-minute episode for the television network.

There had been lots of activity tonight, much of it captured on film. Mark would be pleased, but to Pia these investigations were more personal. It wasn’t enough to simply capture evidence of the paranormal. Considering Pia’s abilities, she didn’t need proof of that.

There were reasons so-called “hauntings” occurred. Reasons a spirit remained trapped on earth. Sometimes it was due to a sudden violent death, like a car accident or a murder. And sometimes spirits didn’t realize they were dead. Pia could often help those lost souls to find the light and the peace waiting for them on the other side. Some spirits knew they were dead but were unwilling to leave loved ones.

And some stayed because they had unfinished business.

Despite the danger of being a sensitive in this line of work, Pia had never considered doing anything else. The spirits she could help were what compelled her to keep investigating with Mark and the team.

So few true mediums existed in the world. Even fewer were willing to take the risks she did to reach the dead. Often, she was the only hope for many of these trapped and wandering spirits, and the only one who could—or would—give them peace. How could she possibly turn her back and walk away? For better or worse, she’d been given her abilities for a reason, and she put her heart and soul into helping the ones she could.

What am I dealing with tonight?

Pia pushed off from the doorframe, stepped into Cassandra’s room, and instantly sensed she wasn’t alone. The temperature in the room plunged, and Pia pulled the sides of her jacket closed. Ice trickled down her spine and spread through her body, a bone-aching chill seeping into her marrow. Her heart raced, and she was instantly alert and on edge.

The room smelled of strawberry lip gloss.

And death.

Something moved in the far corner of the room. Pia resisted the impulse to turn on the light and instead pressed Record on the camcorder and peered through the night-vision viewfinder.

On a wicker chair was a carelessly tossed cardigan.

And a doll in a long white dress.

Was that what she’d seen in her vision? She thought she’d seen a girl, not a doll. But the two looked identical. Pia moved deeper into the room, careful not to trip over the corner of the bed.

The strangely intelligent eyes of the doll tracked her every move.

Pia’s heart pounded in her chest and sweat prickled across her forehead. Steeling herself to remain calm, she sat on the ruffled pink bedspread, lifted the doll off the chair, and held it out at arm’s length. The doll was large, surprisingly heavy, and emitted the aroma of laundry detergent and disinfectant. But then that scent faded, and Pia psychically picked up something that turned her stomach. The sharp, ammonia-like smell indicative of mice. And beneath that, the hint of something putrid. Fresh blood and the pervasive odor of death.

What was this disturbing doll doing in Cassandra’s room?

Pia placed the camera on the bed and used two hands to examine the strangely lifelike toy. Delicate features etched the face, the head fashioned out of porcelain, not the lightweight plastic used in factory-made dolls. The hair was blonde and so silky soft it had to have been real. The dress consisted of flowing layers of intricately delicate lace, in a style of years gone by. A machine had no part in the making of this doll. Every inch of it had been crafted by hand. Out of love. It also hadn’t been made for the girl who slept in this room.

This doll was not Cassandra’s.

Yet it belonged in this house, just the same.

A music box turned on in the corner, and Pia almost dropped the doll. Lights in the ornate wooden box flickered, and a ballerina began twirling to the melodic notes of a piano, the tune’s tempo a fraction too fast.

The air vibrated, crackling with the tension that precedes a destructive storm. Mark’s muffled voice through the overhead floorboards sounded even farther away.

Pia didn’t yet know what type of entity she was dealing with. Or what it wanted. Setting down the doll, she curled her fingers around the black tourmaline crystal pendant she wore for protection and cautiously picked her way across the room. The music box was ice cold, and when she turned it over, she discovered the bottom panel was missing, revealing an empty battery compartment.

But the music continued to play, eerily out of tune. Pia wouldn’t be shocked to learn that the song playing wasn’t even the one that came with the jewelry box.

Her heart fluttering wildly, Pia shivered against an arctic chill. Tiny hairs on her arms stood on end, her chest tightened, and she sensed she wasn’t alone.

Something was behind her, its eyes boring holes into the back of her head.

Show no fear.

Evil entities fed off fear and could attach themselves to the weak and vulnerable, leading to oppression, or worse, possession. Until Pia knew what this entity was, she could reveal nothing, not even a hint of her nerves.

“Who is here?” Thank God her voice came out loud and clear, projecting a confidence she didn’t feel. To the untrained eye, Pia would appear visually alone in the room, but the space around her was anything but empty. The air was thick and heavy, depleted of oxygen, and seemed stale, as if she were trapped in a tiny closet.

Her knees turned to water, and she quickly sat down on the bed. The mattress next to her dipped. Pia’s throat closed over, and her fingers gripped the quilt.

Something Pia couldn’t see, and still couldn’t get a read on, had sat down beside her. The doll rolled away from Pia, seemingly of its own accord.

Something didn’t like her touching the doll.

The owner of the object?

“Who are you?” Pia asked, softer this time, her tone cajoling. “Don’t be scared of me. You can talk to me. Tell me who you are.”

Sarah. The name pressed into Pia’s mind.

“Hello, Sarah.” Pia sensed this was the same girl she’d seen in her visions. The girl who had reached out to her. “What are you doing here, Sarah?”

Can you see me? the entity asked.

“No.” Pia concentrated. She could often see those who had died, but this time no images formed.

A rush of highly charged energy blasted her, and Pia instinctively gripped the bed to brace herself. Her head spinning from dizziness, she clutched the black tourmaline pendant and visualized surrounding herself in a protective white light.

What the hell is this entity? Pia’s answer, that she couldn’t see the entity, had triggered a flood of rage from her unseen companion. Why?

Show no fear.

Pia stood, her fingers tightening on the tourmaline. Keep me safe. Keep me strong. She chanted the words in her mind.

“Don’t,” Pia said firmly, addressing the entity. “Don’t do that.” The energy blast had hit like a physical blow. What was she actually communicating with? A young girl who’d died long ago?

Or is this entity demonic?

Demons were masters of manipulation and often disguised themselves as children. Such a ruse frequently allowed them to get close to humans, to infiltrate the lives of the living before they realized what had happened.

Pia tugged her jacket tightly closed and glanced around the room warily.

You can’t see me, the entity claiming to be Sarah said. It doesn’t matter. No one ever did.

Deep sadness had replaced the abrupt flood of anger, the complete swing unnaturally immediate, like shutting off one tap and turning on another.

“Who didn’t see you?” Pia asked, striving for this to make sense. Hoping to keep this entity calm until she worked out who—or what—she was dealing with.

No one saw me.

“Who? Who didn’t see you?”

And they must pay. He will pay.

“He? Who are you referring to?” As she spoke the words, she knew.

Tom Kelly, the cray fisherman Mark had invited to join them, was the current subject of the entity’s anger.

The old man was in danger.

“Tom!” Pia shouted.

The air turned thick, so viscous, it became almost impossible to breathe. Pia tried to call out again to warn Tom, but the words stuck in her throat.

Terror’s icy talons clawed at her skin and raked her spine. The situation was going from bad to worse. Pure unadulterated hatred speared the air with needles of menace.

Pia braced herself against the onslaught. Her head pounded, threatening to explode, while improbable gusts of wind whipped strands of hair against her face. A draft was impossible; the windows weren’t open. The artificial wind was electrical energy generated by immeasurable, inhuman anger.

Despite the howling wind, Pia heard footsteps on the upper floor. She turned to look. Tom stood at the top of the stairs. He must have heard Pia call out his name and was coming to see what she wanted. When he took the first step down, he cried out. His head twisted one way, then the other, then he doubled over and clutched his stomach, as though he were in the ring with an invisible professional boxer. Losing his footing, he tumbled to the bottom of the stairs and landed in a heap of tangled limbs.

A visible manifestation, a young girl—Sarah?—appeared in the doorway and stared at Tom’s motionless form.

The entity’s hair was blonde, the same color as the doll’s. The girl’s smile was thin and tight. Chilling. She wasn’t merely a spectator to the tragedy; she was the instigator. Harming Tom had been her intention all along.

Pia raced to help Tom, but was thrown backward against the wall outside the door to Cassandra’s bedroom, able to see, but unable to help. Trapped and helpless, she saw Tom being picked up off the floor and thrown back against the wall, where he was held fast, his feet six inches off the ground. Tom fought his unseen attacker, crying out and coughing, blood trickling down his chin to splatter in gruesome patterns across the floor.

“Stop!” Pia demanded, struggling to overcome the invisible force keeping her in place. Turning her head, she focused on the entity of the young girl, who was most certainly at the center of this power.

“Stop!” Pia shouted. “You can talk to me. You said no one can see you. I do now. I see you.”

You do? A dangerous glint flickered in the entity’s black, soulless eyes when she turned them in Pia’s direction.

“Yes!” Pia forced through a constricted throat. “Stop hurting Tom. You don’t have to do this.”

Yes. I. Do!

A series of loud crashes assaulted Pia’s ears. Tables overturned, and cupboard doors flew open, their contents spewing forth to shatter on the floor. Chairs floated up into the air before hurtling at high speed to splinter into ragged pieces against the walls.

A victorious growl rose up through the floorboards, and a tornado raged through the air. Thunder boomed, echoing throughout the eaves of the house as the maelstrom reached its crescendo.

Tom’s limp and battered body was lifted off the wall and sent hurtling forward. He was slammed against the opposite wall, his body falling to the floor, a twisted and lifeless heap of flesh and bones. A wicked-looking knife with a carved eagle head materialized on the hallway table, then flew like an arrow to land dead center in Tom’s chest. He cried out once, thrashing briefly before going utterly limp. The entity’s intentions were absolute.

“Why?” Pia cried.

It was a long time coming.

The pressure holding Pia against the wall released her. She bent forward, drawing in huge lungfuls of air.

The house stilled. Everything fell into absolute silence around her, the only sound her own ragged breathing.

Then the chilling, disembodied laugh of a young girl trickled through the air, before bleeding into the darkness.

Finally able to move, Pia stumbled across the room, desperate to help Tom. Though she reached him in seconds, there was no saving him. Mark, Ryan, and Joe came rushing down the stairs, arriving seconds after her.

For a long, terrible moment, no one spoke. No one moved. They simply stared at Tom’s lifeless body. Too stunned to explain, Pia silently made her way to the front of the house, groped in her handbag for her phone, and with trembling fingers, placed the emergency call to triple zero.

She turned and met Mark’s wide-eyed gaze.

“What the fuck just happened?” His voice shook as he spoke.

Pia couldn’t answer. What could she say?

What the fuck did just happen here?

How could a standard paranormal investigation go so horribly wrong?

Who—or what—was the girl she’d seen standing in the doorway? The same entity who’d reached out to Pia for help. The entity Pia had felt sorry for.

Was the entity in the image of the doll in Cassandra’s room truly the spirit of a lost girl?

Or was it something far more sinister?

The trapped, earthbound spirit of a young girl wouldn’t kill someone on purpose. Would it?

Anger had poured off the spirit, a vortex of hatred that had seemed directed toward Tom Kelly.

But why? Who was Sarah?

And why was she on a quest for revenge?

Chapter Two

Pia was not under arrest—yet.

The document she’d signed stated she was at the Margaret River Police Station voluntarily. Mark and the team had all signed similar documents before being separated. Pia’s fingerprints had been taken, and she was now sitting in a small room with bare, cold walls and a two-way mirror. She’d been asked to stay, but she didn’t believe for one moment she’d had a choice.

She might not yet have official charges laid against her, but if the demeanor of the cops she’d spoken to so far was anything to go by, that particular detail was only a matter of time.

Placing a hand on her churning stomach, she breathed deeply. She didn’t want to be here. Couldn’t be here. This was a waste of time. She needed to understand what had happened last night, and to do that, she needed time alone to think. To get back into the house and reconnect with the entity.

Nearly all the evidence pointed to it being demonic. Typically, entities didn’t hurt people, much less kill them. In fact, such behavior was extremely rare.

But the emotions she’d felt from the entity had been so human. So real. Genuine sadness lay beneath all that hatred.

What were they dealing with?

Pia was tired, hungry, and frustrated. Vivid memories of last night replayed in her mind, mixing and mingling with the visions, the imprints of images the entity had shown her. Short stories, jumbled scenes without context. The soiled and tattered mattress, the shackles and the blood. The doll. The manifestation of the girl—Sarah—at the door. The subsequent chaos, the violence of the attack. Tom at the top of the stairs, his violent death. The eagle-handled knife that had materialized and had somehow flown off the hallway table to pierce his heart.

What does it all mean?

It didn’t make sense, like a jigsaw puzzle before you put its pieces together.

If only she could get somewhere alone. Get some time and space to think. The detective she’d met when she was first brought in, Detective Chief Inspector Darren Johnson, entered the room, his expression grim and formal. He took a seat across the table from where she’d been sitting in a strategically uncomfortable, cold plastic chair. Johnson was followed by his partner, Detective Inspector Terry Mulgrave.

The Detective Chief Inspector did not like her. Pia didn’t need to be psychic to know that. He looked at her with poorly concealed contempt. He’d met Pia’s explanations during informal questioning with derision, repeating her answers slowly, in a way that said, Do you really expect me to believe this crap?

While Johnson took his time pulling out his notebook and pen, Pia focused, using the moment to get a “read” on him. A little over fifty, married with three kids, Johnson was good at his job, uniformly considered the best in the station. He had a full caseload and wanted this homicide wrapped up swiftly.

He’d already made his mind up that the ghost hunters were responsible for the death, the most obvious suspect being Pia. She’d admitted to calling Tom Kelly away from the others.

I don’t believe in ghosts. The thought replayed over and over in Johnson’s mind. Only nutjobs believe in ghosts. And it was his job to decide which nut on the ghost-hunting team had done the killing.

One of the ghost hunters had killed Tom Kelly, or at the very least had seen the perpetrator. Pia was of the most interest. There were holes in her statements given at the scene. He was going to pick at them until she broke. He’d done so many times. Johnson could have his grandmother confessing to murder if he put his mind to it. He’d have this nut cracked by the end of the day. He smirked at his own joke.

The cop sitting next to him was Detective Inspector Terry Mulgrave. About a decade younger than his superior, Mulgrave was seemingly content to take a step back and watch the interview unfold. He was bored, restless. He had much-needed annual-leave break coming up in two weeks, and the ghost-hunting aspect of this homicide was an amusing twist to the day-to-day repetition of crime he’d seen lately.

Mulgrave’s phone flashed, signaling an incoming message. He swiped the phone off the table, glancing at the screen briefly, before sliding it into his top pocket. The message was from Danielle, and a thin layer of sweat broke out across his forehead.

Mulgrave was having an affair, and lately Danielle had been pressuring him to leave his wife, something he’d promised her many times in the heat of passion, but never intended to do. His stomach burned, and he popped an antacid. How the hell was he going to break it off with Danielle and not have this whole situation blow up in his face? Men had affairs all the time. Why had this turned to shit for him?

Pia forced her attention back onto Darren Johnson, who’d begun speaking into a small black recorder, stating the time he was resuming the interview and indicating who was present in the room.

Johnson was ready to wrap this case up. He had irrefutable facts and hard evidence. Details he would lay out on the table, truths she would be forced to agree with, then he would move in for the kill. The victory swing of the sword. He’d danced to this tune many times, and he had his moves down to a fine art. No matter how much trouble Pia Williams was, he’d have official charges laid by the end of the day.

Until this point, he’d been playing too nice. He needed to rile the suspect. Angry people were careless. All he needed were a few ill-chosen words, and it would be case closed.

Pia stopped probing and shut her abilities down. Knowing what was in the detectives’ minds combined with her own anxiousness to leave were making her nervous. A reaction they’d interpret as guilt.

She was innocent, but being in this room, knowing how determined the detectives were to lay charges, made her feel guilty. Why was Johnson so determined to convict her of this crime? There was something else there, something she couldn’t quite see. Something about this particular case that was… personal?

Johnson was talking. She cleared her mind of Johnson’s thoughts and focused on her own.

Stay calm.

Johnson spent some time formally going over the facts of the case as he knew them to be, and then he asked her officially if she’d killed Tom Kelly.

She replied, for the umpteenth time since last night, that she had not.

Johnson then asked her directly if she knew or had seen who’d committed the murder.

Pia stated, again for the record, that she had not.

Johnson did not appear surprised at her continued denial, nor did he appear to believe it.

“Ms. Williams, can you explain, for the record this time, exactly what it was that you were doing at Chad and Monique Reynolds’ house at two o’clock in the morning?”

“We were conducting a paranormal investigation.” Pia answered the question in the same formal tone he’d used. She’d already answered these questions, and her patience was hanging on by a fraying thread.

“Hunting for ghosts, you mean?” Johnson asked, deliberately placing an inflection on the word “ghosts.” Baiting her.

Mulgrave began singing the theme to Ghostbusters in his head, Who you gonna call, and Pia shut him out, erecting a psychic wall that stopped her hearing his thoughts.

“I don’t hunt ghosts,” Pia replied, taking a breath. She reminded herself that Johnson’s attitude was deliberate. He wanted her angry, reckless. And Mulgrave was enjoying the show.

She fought for patience. “Our team, Debunking Reality, the number one paranormal-investigations show to a major network,” she added with emphasis, “investigates unexplained events that could be attributed to the paranormal.”

Riiiight…” Johnson flicked an amused gaze at his partner. “So your clients believe their house is haunted?” he raised an eyebrow in question. Pia kept her gaze even. Johnson cleared his throat and continued. “They call you out to chase away the ghosts. Would that be correct?”

Pia folded her arms across her chest. “Phrase it however you need to make it easier for you to understand.”

“Answer the question, Ms. Williams.”

“I prefer my answer to your paraphrased one. It’s more accurate. Feel free to rewind the tape if you need to hear it again.”

A muscle in Johnson’s jaw twitched, and his pen tapped the lined pad in front of him.

Mulgrave was still humming Who you gonna call, this time out loud, but when Johnson tossed him a pointed glare, then looked at the recorder, Mulgrave fell instantly silent.

“What exactly do you do in these ghost hunts?” Johnson asked.

“Paranormal investigations,” Pia corrected him with emphasis. “Using state-of-the-art equipment, we record and capture EVPs, electronic voice phenomena, measure EMFs, electromagnetic frequencies, and capture unexplained noises, voices, and movements that otherwise can’t be attributed to what most consider to be normal reality.”

“I don’t believe in ghosts,” Johnson said. “I believe only in facts and hard evidence. I need to see something before I know it’s real.” He leaned back in his chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

“Congratulations,” Pia said.

Johnson narrowed his eyes, leaned forward, and placed his elbows on the table. “What makes you think you can get irrefutable evidence of anything? Don’t you think if ghosts existed, scientists would have proved it by now?”

Pia didn’t need proof of anything. On a daily basis, she experienced what mainstream science couldn’t explain. But there were new branches of science, new technologies being developed, that could potentially measure and prove the existence of life after death. Pia hoped to see more leaps of scientific advancement in her lifetime and hoped evidence from Debunking Reality’s paranormal investigations and her own abilities would provide valuable assistance in such research.

Pia eyed Johnson across the table. “Your scientists can’t prove the existence of God,” she said carefully, not intending to insult whatever belief system he might have.

Pia herself believed in a higher consciousness, a power greater than human life. Her point was merely about believing and knowing something to be true without requiring confirmation by modern science.

Still, her comment had offended him. His face reddened, and the look he gave her was one a headmaster would give a recalcitrant child before using the cane. You have no one to blame but yourself for what I’m about to do.

“So, you claim to be a… psychic medium?” Johnson asked.

“If you say so.” Stop trying to aggravate me and get to the questions about Tom Kelly’s death.

Johnson tapped his manila folder with his pen. “Says so in here.”

“Well, then. If it says so in there, it must be true.”

“What are Saturday night’s winning lotto numbers?” Mulgrave asked with a smirk.

Pia closed her eyes, made a low humming noise, and held out her hands like a fortune teller in an incense-filled room behind a curtain. “Twenty… fifteen… thirty-eight… two stupid detectives in a room.”

Pia opened her eyes, amused to see Mulgrave had actually been writing the numbers down. He ripped the page from his notebook, scrunched it up, and tossed it at the wastepaper basket in the corner. It missed.

Johnson slowly and deliberately placed his pen on the table and met her gaze head on. “This is a homicide investigation, Ms. Williams.”

“Then I suggest you stick to questions that relate to that.”

“I don’t need you to tell me how to do my job, Ms. Williams.”

“Clearly you do.”

He tapped his pen on the table. Tap. Tap. Tap. Irritation rolled off him in waves, and Pia fought the impulse to back away. Not from his questions, but his energy. Johnson was a powerful man, his presence forceful to people in general, and Pia felt it even more keenly. She steeled herself the best she could.

“You lock all the doors and secure all windows, exits, and entryways during your ghost hunts,” Johnson stated.

“Paranormal investigations,” Pia corrected him. Again.

“Answer the question.”

“Phrase the questions correctly and I will.”

“What time did you lock yourselves in the house?”

“Eight p.m.”

“And no one entered or left the building after that time.”

“To the best of my knowledge. Until we let you in.”

Johnson made a show of checking his notes, although he knew what time the police had arrived without having to look it up. “The call to police came through at 3:11 a.m. and the first unit arrived on scene at 3:17 a.m. Is it usual practice for you to ransack a house you’re investigating?” Johnson whipped his gaze from the paper to hers, as though attempting to catch her off guard by the sudden change in direction.

Pia held his eyes without flinching. “No.”

“Then why did you do so last night?”

“I didn’t.”

Johnson stared at her. “If no one else could enter or leave the building, one of you had to have torn the house up. Who was it?”

“None of us.”

“Then how do you explain the contents of the house getting so damaged?” Johnson spoke slowly, as though addressing someone of compromised mental capacity.

“If you view the footage we took of the night, you’ll see and hear the unexplained things that we captured. You’d see for yourself what was happening in that house. You’ve confiscated the tapes. Do yourself a favor and watch what’s on them.”

Johnson shifted in his seat. “You could have tampered with the footage. You were after all, making a TV show. Theater is make-believe.”

“We didn’t have time, not that we would have tampered with it anyway. The time and date of the recording is on all the footage. There were several cameras running, capturing events from different angles, from different parts of the house.”

“You can rest assured the footage will be analyzed thoroughly by experts. At this stage, I can’t rule out the likelihood of you staging it.”

“Why would we do that?”

“To cover up a crime, Ms. Williams.”

Pia narrowed her eyes. “I did not commit a crime.”

“That is yet to be determined.”

“Detective, I have not only answered your questions about what happened, I have also given you evidence in the form of digital recordings.”

“Evidence?” Johnson coughed and took a sip of water.

“Yes, evidence. As good as surveillance cameras in any location. You use video evidence in a court of law all the time. We were investigating last night, just like you do.”

“Investigating just like me?” His lips twisted.

“Have you taken a look at the footage?” Pia demanded. They hadn’t had time to review what they’d caught in the final moments; she had to hope they had something substantial. Something that could clear them all of a possible murder charge.

“Yes.”

“Well?”

“Well, what?” Johnson shrugged. “Looks like it would have been a spooky show. But I’m talking real life here, Ms. Williams. A man was murdered. I need facts. Evidence. I need you to start telling the truth.”

“Did the camera in the hallway capture what happened to Tom?” Pia sat up straight in her chair. All they had to do was prove the footage hadn’t been tampered with, and they’d be clear.

“At 3:01, the cameras went staticky, then died. What are the chances of all the cameras running out of batteries just moments before Mr. Kelly died? The house was in perfect order at that time, I might add. Someone really messed up the house between 3:01 and 3:17.”

Pia rubbed at her temples. “All the cameras?” It was not uncommon for entities to use electrical equipment nearby to help get the energy required, particularly for a manifestation, as when “Sarah” appeared in the doorway next to Pia.

“All the cameras,” Johnson said, as though that proved his point and not hers.

“How could we possibly turn off seven different cameras in various locations at precisely 3:01 a.m. when there were only four of us?”

“How did you?” he asked.

“It’s not possible.”

“Very little surprises me these days, Ms. Williams. If I were to take a guess, I’d say you turned them off remotely.”

Pia clenched her jaw and remained silent. There was no argument she could make that he would believe. He’d already determined her guilt.

“I put it to you, Ms. Williams, that you or one of your team killed Tom Kelly, quite violently I might add, then ransacked the house in an attempt to cover up or destroy evidence.”

“I did not.”

“Then who did?” Johnson asked. “All of you? There was a lot of destruction for just one person. I fail to see how just one of you could have done it and the others not be aware of it.” He paused. “I’m going to ask you one more time. What happened to Tom Kelly, and who caused the damage to the house?”

“I don’t know.”

“For a psychic, you really don’t know much, do you?”

“For a detective, you are slow at connecting all the dots.”

“What dots would those be?”

Pia averted her gaze. Six months ago, she’d gone through exactly the same thing with another set of detectives, Ethan Blade and Nate Ryder, on a different investigation back in Cryton, South Australia. It was almost impossible to convince skeptics of what they chose not to see.

“Precisely where were you when Tom Kelly was killed?”

The question was fired at her like a bullet from a gun, and Pia whipped her attention back to the room. “I told you, I was just outside the daughter’s bedroom. Cassandra Reynold’s room.”

“From the doorway of that room, you have a straight line of sight to where Tom Kelly’s body was found. Am I right?”

“Yes.”

“And yet, you didn’t see anything at all?”

“I saw lots of things,” Pia said.

“Would one of those things be who murdered Tom Kelly?”

“No.”

“Because it was you.”

“It wasn’t me.”

“So Tom Kelly was killed in front of you, but you didn’t see who did it. Supposing that’s true, what I don’t understand is why you didn’t do anything to help him?”

I couldn’t. I was pinned against the wall. “I guess I must have been in shock.” What else can I say that he’d believe?

“What were you doing in Cassandra’s room all alone?” Mulgrave asked. “When the rest of the team was upstairs?”

Pia stretched her neck. This situation was not looking good. What defense did she have if the detectives wouldn’t believe there was something paranormal involved?

“Playing with her doll collection,” Pia said, her flippant comment annoying both detectives to judge by their reddening faces. Stay calm.

“So if you didn’t kill Tom Kelly, and you claim the rest of your team didn’t, what do you believe happened to him?”

“An unfortunate accident as the result of violent poltergeist activity,” Pia said, in echo of Mark’s observation while they’d been waiting for the police to arrive. She had nothing to lose, so she’d put that theory out there. And stand by it.

“So you’re suggesting that a… ghost did it?” Johnson sneered.

“Woo ooo ooo,” Mulgrave said in an imitation of spooky music under his breath.

Pia rubbed her temples. She hadn’t slept at all last night, and after what had happened during the investigation, she was emotionally exhausted. Impressions were starting to bombard her. She was tiring fast and could no longer maintain control of her filter. Images, phrases, voices were coming at her thick and fast. From this room and from the corridor behind her.

Calling it the “interview room” did little to change the fact she was as trapped here as she would have been in a locked cell. A cell like the one Detective Johnson believed he was taking her to after the interview. When he arrested her.

Mulgrave’s phone vibrated in his top pocket. He pulled it out and looked at a text message. Danielle again. He needed a cigarette. He wanted to think. He had to work out a way to break off the affair without it blowing up in his face. He could lose everything.

“And you’d deserve it,” Pia said.

“What?” Johnson asked, brow wrinkling.

Mulgrave’s eyes widened, before narrowing suspiciously.

“Just to make sure I’ve got this right,” Johnson said. “Mark Collins, Ryan Donovan, Joe Clarke, and Tom Kelly were all upstairs, and you were the only one downstairs. Is that correct?”

“Yes.”

“Moments before the tapes went out, your voice is on the recording calling out to Tom Kelly. Why did you call him downstairs?”

Pia closed her eyes, but that wouldn’t help her. When Sarah had been standing in the door, Pia had had an overwhelming sense that Sarah’s anger was directed at Tom. Pia hadn’t known why—she still didn’t—but it had been only instinct that had made her call out to Tom. To warn him.

“So you called for him to come downstairs,” Johnson pressed on, taking her silence as confirmation of her guilt. “And then you beat him up and killed him. Why?”

“I didn’t beat him up or kill him.”

“So you called him, but remained just outside the girl’s bedroom where you somehow didn’t see or hear who beat him up and then killed him?”

“It wasn’t me.”

“Wasn’t it?” Johnson cleared his throat. “Then tell me who it was,” he demanded, leaning forward with his elbows on the table. “You were meters away, and you didn’t see anything? All that noise. All that chaos happening right in front of you, and you didn’t see a damn thing?”

When she didn’t reply, he continued. “The front door was locked, and you said you had to unlock it to let the police in.”

Pia’s stomach knotted.

“Why did you call Tom Kelly to come downstairs?”

Pia couldn’t hold Johnson’s gaze. What reason could she give that he would believe? His questions were getting louder, more demanding.

“What were you doing after you called out for Tom Kelly to come down?”

How could she explain that she’d been pressed against the wall, unable to move?

“You were the only one downstairs; everyone agrees that the rest of your team was upstairs at the time of the incident. You called for Tom Kelly, for a reason yet to be determined, then all of a sudden Kelly is dead. And you, Ms. Williams, by your own admission, were the only one downstairs.”

Johnson looked down at his notes in faux confusion.

“But you claim you didn’t kill him….”

“I told you what I believe happened,” Pia said, struggling to talk past the constriction in her throat.

Johnson went back through his notes, pretending to concentrate as though he’d missed something. “Oh that’s right,” he said, tapping the note with his pen. “According to you, a ghost killed him.”

Oh, she was so screwed.

She should have called a lawyer. Clearly, attorneys were not just for the guilty. But who could she call? Pia didn’t know any lawyers. And this wasn’t a standard crime.

Who would believe her?

She could just imagine the lawyer suggesting their strategy be an insanity plea.

Pia released a long, slow breath. Stay calm.

“I want a lawyer.”

Johnson and Mulgrave exchanged satisfied looks.

“Look, Ms. Williams,” Mulgrave said. “You are entitled to a lawyer. But we’re only asking a few questions. Trying to clear things up. We can start again at the beginning. Perhaps there’s something you’ve missed.”

There was nothing Pia could say that would make things any clearer for the detectives. She opened her mouth and said the first thing that rose to mind.

“The feng shui in here is terrible.”

Johnson blinked. “The what?”

“The feng shui,” Pia said, waving her arms to encompass the room. “The steel gray walls are too harsh; they would benefit from being painted a more soothing color. A soft blue perhaps. Something that sets people at ease. If you create free-flowing positive energy, you might find interviewees more forthcoming with their answers.”

Johnson gave her a hard look. “Would you be more forthcoming if the walls were a different color?”

“You should put a plant over there.” Pia pointed to the corner adjacent to the door. “Soften those hard corners. The furniture should be rearranged. This desk needs to be shifted so that your back is not to the door. You should—”

“Ms. Williams!”

“See, you’re frustrated,” Pia said with faux sympathy. “A nice picture of a waterfall trickling into a calm pond would do wonders for your nerves.”

She could almost hear his teeth grinding.

“You won’t be such a smart-arse when I arrest you for murder.”

Pia shrugged. “I didn’t do it.”

“You think you’re the first person to protest their innocence?” Johnson smirked.

Pia held his gaze, refusing to be intimidated. The moment drew out. Much to her surprise, he was the first to look away.

“Tell you what,” Johnson said. “You work out how to bring that ghost in here for questioning, and if he admits guilt, we’ll lock him up. In the meantime,”—Johnson leaned forward, elbows on the table, his eyes taking on a hard glint—“you can do us all a favor and confess. I’ll take you to a different room. Never know; that one might have better foong shuwi.”

“It’s pronounced ‘fung shway.’ And spelt F.U.C.K.Y.O.U.”

Johnson’s face turned purple.

“I want to call my lawyer.”

Johnson turned the tape off, then he stormed out, Mulgrave on his heels. Mulgrave slammed the door behind him.

Pia pulled her mobile out of her bag and stared at it.

She could call Sage Blade, the friend Pia had helped with the demonic entity in September last year. Sage’s husband, Ethan, had been in Special Operations with the South Australian Police Force. He might be able to help.

But Sage was pregnant and had been in the hospital recently. Pia couldn’t pull Ethan away from Sage’s side.

Pia closed her eyes, concentrated, and a picture of a business card she’d received six months ago came to the forefront of her mind.

She shook her head, dispelling the image.

No. She couldn’t call him.

There had to be someone else.

She leaned forward, face in her palms. What was she going to do? It didn’t take a brain surgeon to realize she was in trouble.

Big trouble.

Mark and the team were in the same situation. Mark would be firm in his claim of poltergeist activity. And why not? He believed it to be the truth. But what did you do when you couldn’t use the truth?

She couldn’t bother Sage and Ethan. And that meant she knew only one other person who was in a position to help.

Him.

Her stomach twisted.

She dialed the number she’d remembered. When she heard the smooth, deep voice on the recording that answered her, she closed her eyes and gripped the phone tight in her hands, her heart pounding.

“Hi, it’s me. Pia. I need you. Your help, I mean,” she rushed to say. “I need your help.”

Chapter Three

Nate Ryder was working a private case when a call came through, and he let it transfer straight to voice mail. He couldn’t be interrupted at the moment.

Former Detective Senior Constable of the South Australian Police Force, ex-Special Operations unit, Taipan, Nate and the team had formed their own company and worked independently of the government now. Since they no longer needed to keep the unit’s identity secret, they’d kept the name Taipan as a tribute to fallen team member Jake Brown, who’d died in the line of duty last September.

“I have visual.” Sam Wells whistled in appreciation through the headset in Nate’s ear. “Nice birthday present. Thanks.” Today Sam turned twenty-six.

Nate barked a short laugh. They’d just located—and were about to steal back—a rare, 1969 Ferrari convertible stolen from a very wealthy private client of Taipan Security and Investigations, TSI. The car’s worth had been pegged at around three million dollars.

Straightforward case—for TSI anyway. To men as highly trained as Sam and Nate, a simple seize-and-recover operation should be a breeze.

The slight complication in the case, if you could call it that, was that the Ferrari had been stolen nine months ago by one of the biggest drug lords in Australia, Wild Wilson.

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