Dread of Night

Something big is prowling the woods around Parson’s Hollow, and Demetrius Singleton is afraid it’s another wolfman. The sudden arrival of Cody’s niece, Summer, and the strange behavior of Demetrius’ Aunt Amelia distract the two newlyweds from investigating until they learn some people have gone missing and others have been violently murdered. Demetrius and Cody now realize they are the only two with enough experience to stop whatever lurks in the woods.

Refusing to believe in a paranormal entity, Deputy Lucia Durant calls in a State Police sergeant, and Cody and Demetrius are surprised to find it’s Hap Blanchard, an officer they’ve worked with before who’s more open to paranormal possibilities. Soon, Demetrius, Cody, Lucia, and Hap are joined by a number of familiar friends who help them race the countdown to the next full moon and solve their most deadly and personal case yet.

Excerpt:

“Okay, so we have a lot to do, and we’re going to need some fuel to do it," Demetrius said. "What’d you two find for dinner?”

Cody exchanged a look with Summer. “Ketchup surprise.”

“Didn’t you two just go shopping?” Demmy said.

“You guys eat out a lot,” Summer said. “Do you ever cook?”

“Sometimes,” Cody said. “When we’re not hunting monsters.” He stood up and said, “Let’s get our fancy clothes on and go to Antonio’s.”

“What?” Demmy looked surprised. “Did you win the lottery or something?”

“Nope. Just think we should treat ourselves once in a while.”

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“Is it like Margie’s?” Summer asked, looking at him suspiciously. “Is Antonio Margie’s brother or something?”

“Antonio’s is the nicest restaurant in town,” Demmy said.

“Tablecloths and cloth napkins and glass goblets for water.”

“Won’t Margie miss you?”

“If you want, we could stay here and you could make us all dinner,” Cody said.

“Antonio’s sounds nice.”

“I thought you might see it that way.”

“Back to Parson’s Pines afterward?” Demmy asked. “Check on Felicia?”

Summer got up from the table and ran toward the guest room. “I’ll get changed! Do I need to wear long pants for such a fancy restaurant?”

“We’ve created a monster hunting monster,” Cody said.

“Let’s hope she doesn’t get a taste for it,” Demmy said, giving him a quick kiss before walking to the bedroom to change.

A note taped on the inside of Antonio’s glass door read: Sorry, closed due to family emergency.

“That sounds ominous,” Demmy said.

Cody had been thinking along the same lines. “How old is good ol’ Antonio?”

Demmy shrugged. “Not sure. We don’t eat here often enough to really know him.”

“Correction,” Cody said, “we don’t make enough money to be able to eat here often enough to really know him.”

Demmy grinned. “I stand corrected.”

That grin helped Cody feel a bit better in spite of everything. It let him know things probably weren’t as bad as they seemed. Yet.

He turned away from Antonio’s door and stopped at the sight of Summer standing just behind him with her arms crossed and a sulky expression.

“I take it we’re going to Margie’s again?” she said.

“In case you hadn’t noticed, there aren’t a lot of options here in town,” Cody said.

“Have you considered going to another town?”

Cody frowned. “Why would we do that?”

“Ugh.” Summer turned toward Margie’s Diner, several storefronts away. “I put on long pants for this.”

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A Tangle of Secrets

Town of Superstition: Book Four

Thaddeus and his family and friends have returned from Iron Gulch and Thaddeus’s summer of magical awakening to a very different life. For one, he has both his parents for the first time, though his mother is still haunted by terrors and powers she can’t yet control. Teofil, Thaddeus’s gnome boyfriend, is consumed with finding Thaddeus’s evil uncle Lucian and answers about what happened to his brother, and he spends his days sequestered in Leopold’s library, pouring over the old wizard’s journals. When Thaddeus starts school and makes friends Teofil doesn’t like, there’s tension between them for the first time ever.

Thaddeus’s problems don’t end there. It’s harder and harder for him to conceal his magic, especially when facing the school bully. He’s lost, confused, and lashing out, and for once, he finds no solace in those closest to him. His enemies are hiding in plain sight, biding their time, until the Bearagon reappears and instigates a fight not everyone will walk away from.

Excerpt:

Teofil looked around the library to make sure no one was near before he leaned in and lowered his voice. "Try something less specific, like how an un-gifted would explain something unusual."

"That's interesting."

Thaddeus stared at the computer screen as he thought about Teofil's suggestion. A thought came to him and he leaned forward again to type. He had no luck with the words "strange," "unusual," "weird," or "odd." He sighed and looked up at the ceiling as he thought about all of the things he had seen. The trolls near the Lost Forest, the reaper grub they had saved Dulindir from, and then the water sprites in the Wretched River. All of those creatures paled in comparison to the goblins and ghouls, which in turn had fallen under the terrible claws of the Bearagon inside the mine.

The Bearagon.

"I've got it," Thaddeus whispered.

"What?" Teofil looked to the screen. "I don't see anything."

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"Not yet." Thaddeus typed WEREWOLF and pressed Enter.

One article was returned, and Teofil drew in a sharp breath.

"The Bearagon," he whispered.

They smiled at each other before Thaddeus clicked on the link. The article was from the previous November and told of how two hunters from out of state were stalked by a large animal while camping one night. They had first thought the animal to be a bear, but when they left the tent to investigate, found a much larger and more ferocious beast waiting. One of the men went so far as to call it a werewolf.

"That's got to be it," Teofil said.

Thaddeus nodded. "I agree. This was months before my dad and I moved to Superstition. The Bearagon was sighted here in the area before we moved to Superstition and it started stalking me."

"Does it say where they saw it?" Teofil asked.

Thaddeus scanned the article. "Nothing specific. Just says in the woods northwest of town, a little north of Evergreen Pass."

"I wonder how far away that is?" Teofil sat back. "Maybe we could take a look there before we need to get on the bus for home."

"Let's ask." Before he got up, Thaddeus clicked the Print button and grabbed the printout of the article from a printer located near the librarian's desk.

When they asked the librarian about the location of the woods north of Evergreen Pass, she shook her head. "You're much too young to be out there on your own. If you're hunting, you'll need a license and an adult to accompany you."

"We're not here to hunt," Thaddeus said. "We just heard the view is especially nice in that area."

The librarian narrowed her eyes. "You may fool your parents or teachers with that kind of malarky, but you're not fooling me. There's been no sign of the monster for weeks, now you both scoot on home."

"Weeks?" Teofil exclaimed.

"We just knew about the sighting from last November," Thaddeus said.

"You'll not be hearing anything more from me," the librarian said and turned away to check out some books for a woman.

Thaddeus and Teofil returned to the room with the wide and shallow drawers. Pulling open the drawer marked AUGUST, Thaddeus grabbed all of the issues and carried them to the table at which they'd previously sat.

"We need to read more carefully," Thaddeus said as he moved his gaze down the copy on the front page.

"How did we miss it?" Teofil wondered.

"We fell into a routine," Thaddeus said. "Or they covered it up."

A few minutes later, Teofil let out a quiet gasp. "Here it is. The article's title is a bit misleading though. It says 'Another Large Bear Sighting?'"

"Where was it sighted?" Thaddeus got out of his chair and rounded the table to sit beside him. "Was it the Bearagon?"

"I don't know," Teofil replied as he ran his finger down the copy. "It's kind of vague."

They sat close, heads nearly touching as they both read the article. It was short in both word count and details, but as he read it, Thaddeus could put together the scene quite easily.

COLLAPSE

The Battle of Iron Gulch

Town of Superstition: Book Three

The Battle of Iron Gulch

Thaddeus Cane has finally reached the foot of Wraith Mountain. He hopes to find his mother—changed into a dragon by the witch Isadora many years ago—and bring her back to Superstition to live with him and his father. With Teofil, his garden gnome boyfriend, and Teofil’s mother, sister, and their new elf friend, Thaddeus discovers that getting to his mother will not be as easy as they’d hoped. They are forced to shelter in the small town of Iron Gulch where Thaddeus’s father takes a job to secure the equipment they need to climb the mountain.

The longer they stay in Iron Gulch, the more Thaddeus comes to believe things in the town are not as pleasant as they appear. When a new and vicious enemy reveals itself, Thaddeus and his group are thrust into a fight not only for their lives, but for the lives of the Iron Gulch residents. As the battle rages, they discover Thaddeus’s mother and struggle to free her and end Isadora’s tyranny once and for all.

Excerpt:

The fire crackled, and tiny sparks and embers spiraled up toward the velvety purple sky that stretched overhead. Something rustled in the grass a dozen or more feet away. Thaddeus got to his feet and Teofil stood alongside him.

“Did you hear that?” Thaddeus whispered.

“I did,” Teofil replied.

“Where’s your father?” Miriam asked, and when Thaddeus looked around, he found her and Astrid standing and looking off into the darkness as well.

A chill of fear went through him, leaving him as cold as if he’d swallowed water from the Wretched River. He was in motion before he realized it, sprinting out into the darkness that surrounded their small campfire. The grasses parted around him, the sounds of the tall blades like conspiratorial whispers.

“Dad?” Thaddeus called. Nathan did not answer, and so he tried again, a little louder, squinting into the dark.

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A warm glow suddenly appeared, revealing Teofil standing a few feet behind him, shoulders and expression tense. Then Thaddeus realized that Dulindir had followed him as well, his hair glowing with starlight and illuminating the immediate area.

“He was walking off in this direction the last I saw him,” Dulindir said and pointed.

A shout that sounded like his father prompted Thaddeus to break into a run.

“Dad!” Thaddeus shouted. “Where are you?”

“Thaddeus, wait!” Teofil called, and Thaddeus could hear him coming up behind. But Thaddeus could not wait. His father had been gravely ill just days before, grazed by a troll’s poison dart, and Thaddeus worried that Nathan might not be strong enough to fight off another threat.
In his panicked rush to find him, Thaddeus very nearly passed his father by. A rustling off to his left brought him to a stop, and then Dulindir stood beside him, illuminating the area. Nathan lay on his back, struggling with a small creature he was trying to pull off his chest.

The creature was small and dark in color. It had short but powerful-looking limbs, each of which appeared to end in hands tipped with claws. Spikes ran from the crown of its slightly flattened head and along its spine to a stubby tail.

“Dad!” Thaddeus exclaimed as Nathan struggled to keep the thing from biting his neck.

“Stay back!” Nathan shouted without looking at him.

“Goblin,” Dulindir said and looked over his shoulder as he pulled out his sword. “They are rarely alone.”

Frustration, fear, and anger seemed to collide within Thaddeus as he stood helplessly by, watching his father fight for his life. He clenched his fists and bit his lip as a warm tingle started within his chest. It traveled down his arms and seemed to pool in the palms of his hands, stinging slightly as it instilled within him the need to act, to move, to do something, anything.

Thaddeus thrust out his arms, fingers curled into claws as he released a shout of rage. The heat in his palms seemed to leap from his hands, directed right at the goblin. With a jolt the creature stopped struggling with Nathan and looked over its scaly shoulder to fix Thaddeus with a hostile look. It felt to Thaddeus as if he now held the goblin in his hands, even though he stood at least a dozen feet away. And the goblin seemed to be feeling Thaddeus’s touch as well, because it pulled out of Nathan’s grasp and turned to face him, still standing on his father and holding him in place.

When the goblin moved, it seemed to move within Thaddeus’s grip, and the sensation was so startling, and the feel of the creature so disgusting, Thaddeus reacted without thinking. He flung his arms to the side as if throwing it far away from him. To his astonishment the goblin was hurled off his father’s chest and sent spinning high into the air, an annoyed and surprised yelp fading away into the night.

The heat in Thaddeus’s palms cooled immediately, and he stood staring down at his hands. Dulindir, Teofil, and Nathan all stared at him as well, and then Nathan broke the stunned silence by falling flat on his back and laughing long and loud up at the night sky. After a moment, the rest of them followed suit. The laugh felt odd but refreshing to Thaddeus. He approached and reached down to help his father stand.

Nathan clapped a hand on Thaddeus’s shoulder and squeezed. “Apparently either you or someone you care about needs to be in danger for you to conjure magic.”

Thaddeus grinned and shrugged. “I guess so. Hopefully I can learn to do it without the danger.”

“We’ll work on that,” Nathan promised him.

“We should move back to the fire,” Dulindir said. He had his back to them and stood staring out at the grass, which was shifting quietly in the slight breeze. “Goblins rarely travel alone, especially this far from a mountain, and light hurts their eyes.”

Thaddeus helped Nathan pick up the wood he had dropped when the goblin attacked him, and they made their way back to the fire.

COLLAPSE

The Well of Tears

Town of Superstition: Book Two

Thaddeus Cane’s life changed when he learned he is the son of a witch and a wizard, and now he’s undertaken a mission to find his mother, who was cursed not long after Thaddeus was born. He enlists the aid of his father, Nathan; his boyfriend and neighbor, Teofil Rhododendron, a garden gnome; and Teofil’s mother, brother, and sister. As they journey through a world that seems normal on the surface, they meet many magical creatures, some kind and helpful, others evil and dangerous. When Nathan suffers a life-threatening injury, Thaddeus might be forced to abandon the quest to find his mother in order to save his father.

Excerpt:

“Long ago,” Astrid explained, “there came a great sickness that swept across the land. It infected those who lived in the forest and surrounding country, and it was quite deadly. Many died from it, and those who cared for their loved ones who were first infected caught it as well, until only a handful of survivors remained.”

“How awful,” Thaddeus said.

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“They never found out where it originated,” Astrid continued. “And so they buried all the bodies in a long pit, somewhere deep inside the forest. After many years, the infected blood from all of those bodies found its way into the soil and, finally, the roots of the trees around the grave. Those trees grew darker and twisted, and bore fruit that tasted vile and sour. The foul fruit attracted evil into the forest, and as time went on, the magical creatures who had survived the sickness left the forest and the darker beings took over. The gravesite has since been lost, and any who have gone in search of it have never returned.”

“Wow,” Thaddeus whispered. “That’s quite a story. And we have to go through this forest?”

“Just keep in mind that’s what it is,” Nathan said. “A story.”

“Suit yourself,” Astrid said. “But I’ve heard the story from more than one source.”

“You forgot the best part,” Fetter piped up.

“What do you mean?” Astrid asked, her voice edged with annoyance.

“About the well,” Fetter said.

Astrid sighed, and Thaddeus glanced back in time to see her roll her eyes. “You and that ridiculous well,” Astrid said.

“It’s the best part of the story!” Fetter nearly shouted.

“Keep your voices down, both of you,” Miriam scolded them gently. They all fell silent a moment, then Miriam said, “And you did leave out that part, Astrid.”

“See?” Fetter immediately said. “I told you!”

“Shut up!” Astrid snapped.

“Oh, for the love of geranium, both of you keep still!” Miriam said. She marched up to get between Astrid and Thaddeus and lowered her voice as she told the part of the story Astrid had skipped. “You see, the people who lived within the forest had no idea what was making their loved ones so sick. It could be something they were eating, or maybe the water they were drinking. To be safe, they dug a new well far outside their village. At first, the water they pulled up from this new well was cool, clear, and plentiful, but soon it dried up, with no explanation or reason. Those who still remained would gather at the edge of the well and lower the bucket with hopes of finding just a little bit of fresh water, but there was none to be had. They cried as they circled the well, so very thirsty and still heartbroken from the loss of their loved ones, and soon their tears filled it up, but that was too salty for them to drink, so they had to move away.”

Miriam gave a nod and adjusted her pack across her shoulders. “To this day, that well remains, somewhere deep within the Lost Forest, filled with the shimmering tears of a great number of magical beings. The magic contained within that Well of Tears is powerful indeed, because it’s the collected power of all of the enchanted creatures.”

“The Well of Tears?” Thaddeus whispered.

“That’s what they call it,” Fetter said from the back of the line. “Isn’t it a great name?”

Astrid made a disgusted sound. “It’s a horrible name. Ridiculous and romantic, and not even a good part of the story. No one’s ever seen it, and do you know how many tears it would take to fill a well? It’s not even possible!”

Thaddeus followed his father, who forged a path through the tall grass. As he walked, his thoughts strayed to a mass grave filled with the bones of magical beings surrounded by dark, twisted trees and a well filled with tears, and he wondered—not for the last time, he was sure—if he would ever stop being surprised by this strange new world he had discovered.

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The Midnight Gardener

Town of Superstition: Book One

The Midnight Gardener

At fifteen, Thaddeus Cane has moved thirty-two times with his father. Each time he’s displaced without explanation, Thaddeus loses any friends he’s made. The name of their latest town is Superstition, but it seems normal enough, with one exception.

Thaddeus’s bedroom window gives him a view into the beautiful gardens next door. Every night after dark, an attractive guy around Thaddeus’s age appears to tend the plants. When Thaddeus visits his neighbor, he discovers not only how deep his interest in the other man runs, but also that Teofil, the midnight gardener, isn’t human. He’s a garden gnome, a revelation that will lead to more secrets coming to light and an adventure unlike anything Thaddeus ever imagined.

Excerpt:

He had left his windows open a bit to enjoy the night air, and the sound of someone humming drew him to the one that faced west. Thaddeus peered down into their neighbor’s yard where the light of the moon bleached the color from the flowers and the grass. Someone was out in the yard, moving from flowerbed to flowerbed, humming an odd tune. Fireflies danced around the figure, and Thaddeus frowned as he watched them move along with the person. He’d never known fireflies to trail after someone like that. This deserved a closer look.

The grass was wet and cool under his bare feet, sending a shiver up Thaddeus’s legs. He crept along the tall, wooden privacy fence, looking for a space between the boards or a knothole he might be able to peer through. But the fence was solidly built, and Thaddeus couldn’t find even the smallest crack to try and get a glimpse of the mysterious neighbor.

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On the other side of the fence, Thaddeus could hear the humming gardener moving closer to the fence. A few fireflies drifted over the top and circled Thaddeus’s head, their lights flashing in rhythm. He moved a few steps back, and the fireflies spun around the place where he had been standing before rising up and slipping back over the fence.

Just as Thaddeus parted his lips to call a greeting over the fence, the skin at the back of his neck prickled, and he stopped. Someone was watching him.

He turned slowly toward the wooded area at the edge of their property. Just inside the closely spaced trees, Thaddeus saw something standing very still and staring at him. It was an animal of some kind, a big one, but he couldn’t tell if it was a dog or a wolf, or maybe even a cougar, as the moonlight didn’t reach far enough between the trees to illuminate it.

Chills rattled through him, stilling his voice and freezing him in place. He stared at the creature in the woods, trying to decipher form from shadow. It stared back, not moving or making a sound, and that was more frightening to Thaddeus than if the thing charged him.

The humming grew louder as the midnight gardener moved to a flowerbed just on the other side of the fence from Thaddeus. Thaddeus swallowed and tried to find his voice to shout a warning to his neighbor, but decided it would be unnecessary since his yard was completely closed in. Instead, he willed his legs to move and stepped backward toward the house. The shadowy creature remained standing in place, but it lowered its large head, and moonlight flashed within its eyes.

That sparked a reaction within Thaddeus, a thawing out of his fear, and he turned his back to run to the house, glancing over his shoulder every second step. Nothing pursued him, and he stepped through the side door and quickly closed and locked it behind him. Now that he was safe inside, shivers took him, and he stepped up and down in place to get them out of his system.

He crept upstairs, being quiet so as not to wake his father whose room was at the top of the steps. After pausing in the bathroom to wipe the grass and dew from his bare feet, he entered his bedroom and leaned out the window that overlooked the neighbor’s yard. The mysterious gardener was gone, and the fireflies now meandered around both yards, sparking and fading like normal insects. Thaddeus leaned a bit farther out of the window to see the place in the woods where the animal had stood and watched him. He squinted but couldn’t tell if the creature still lurked in the shadows.

With another shiver, he drew back inside and closed the window. After a second’s hesitation, he latched it even though his bedroom was on the second floor. Despite the excitement of his midnight sojourn, or maybe because of it, a yawn crept up on him. He slipped beneath the sheets and curled up on his side. He yawned once more before drifting off to sleep, where he dreamed of walking through a dense wood while a large creature followed him, both of them trying to track down the person who was humming a tune among the trees.

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