Here's a FREEBIE - Suspense, Supernatural, Family Drama - All set in snowy Carnation, Washington at Christmas time.
FREE Today on Amazon! December 18-19
Dream Come True
A Dream's Prophecy, Strange Neighbors, A Tragic Fire That Must Be Prevented
Picturesque Carnation, Washington seems like the idyllic Christmas vacation until Jamey Dunn has a prophetic dream of his father's house burning to the ground. When Jamey and Tina rush from Maui to Washington State, they discover suspicious neighbors, creepy pranks, and explainable occurrences that lead them to use dreams and clairvoyance to determine who wants Jamey's father dead, and why.
Picturesque Carnation, Washington seems like the idyllic Christmas vacation until Jamey Dunn has a prophetic dream of his father's house burning to the ground. When Jamey and Tina rush from Maui to Washington State, they discover suspicious neighbors, creepy pranks, and explainable occurrences that lead them to use dreams and clairvoyance to determine who wants Jamey's father dead, and why.
But, what they are up against is something they couldn't have ever imagined, something sinister and beyond their collected pool of experience with not only criminals, but the afterlife. In a mad rush to Christmas Eve, the twosome are desperate to prevent the prophetic dream from becoming a heart-wrenching reality and to save not only the Dunn family home but the patriarch - Pops.
If this book looks interesting, but you're still not sure of taking a chance on the FREE book because your Kindle has too many books on it already, read a bit:
"Love all, trust a few. Do wrong to none." ~ William Shakespeare
UPDATE: Today, I also have a Christmas Contemporary Romance Novella FREE.
AMAZON LINK - Christmas in Whistler
Daria Stark faces a lonely Christmas with her two young children promised to her recent ex-husband and his scheming girlfriend. Hoping for distraction, she leaves Seattle for the picturesque Canadian ski resort, Whistler Mountain, where her friend Joanne is entertaining a house full of Christmas company When a handsome man arrives at Joanne's mountain lodge for Christmas, Daria finds herself tempted by the attentions of the charming vintner, Pierre Charbenaud. Knowing she's vulnerable to his attentions and will undoubtedly face heartbreak at the end of the vacation when she returns to Seattle and Pierre returns to Napa, Daria throws herself in to Christmas instead of Pierre's log bed at the lodge. But days spent skiing the mountain with the once ski instructor and nights in front of the fire have Daria under the mistletoe with the dashing vintner soon enough.
Excerpt from Dream Come True
James Dunn stood in the snow in his front yard in Carnation, Washington and watched his childhood home burn. Orange flames licked the side of the old two-story home, heading from the back to the front of the house and up. “Pops!” His father stood in the front window of the bedroom he’d slept in his whole life. Why the hell wasn’t his dad running down the stairs? The house wasn’t completely overtaken by the inferno. “Get out of there!” he yelled to the old man in the window, waving his arms.
Pops shook his head, as if it was too late. But it wasn’t. He could still get down the stairs. And then Jamey remembered that the hall from Pops bedroom ran the length of the house at the back and the fire appeared to have started in the kitchen. The back of the house where the kitchen had been was completely engulfed in flames, crackling and finishing off the gathering place for the Dunn family for forty some odd years.
He pointed to the window. “Open the window. Jump!” Pops could slide down the roof of the front porch outside his window and only fall about fifteen feet into the snow. “Do it!”
Pops showed that the window didn’t open and then Jamey realized that his father had painted the window shut a few months ago when he’d decided to cover up the blue bedroom for a “nice neutral and masculine tan.”
“Smash it!” James yelled. Why in hell didn’t Pops do something. “Come on, Man. Get out of there.” Jamey’s voice cracked. If Tina was in this dream, she could take away the fire, leap up to the window, smash the glass and rescue Pops. She had the ability to change the dream because this whole fiasco started as her dream. She’d be wondering what happened to him, where he went. He wondered himself. Maybe he could call her into this branch of the dream. “Tina! Get over here.”
Pops stood at the window shaking his head.
Jamey ran to the porch, stood on the railing and tried to shimmy up the corner post to the grab the gutter. How had he ever gotten to the roof this way in his teenage years, it was so slippery? He couldn’t get any traction. He jumped down and ran to the garage at the back of the house, a building not attached to the blaze. Finding the ladder hanging at the back of the garage, he hoisted it down and ran it outside, hitting Pops’ truck several times along the way.
By the time he got to the front of the house, flames had engulfed the front rooms but it looked like Pops’ bedroom would be the last to go. He still stood at the window, his face a blank mask of nothing. Jamey extended the ladder, locked it in place and placed it against the roof outside Pops’ window. Just as he got to the top of the ladder and was about to step to the roof, flames invaded Pops’ room. He could still save his father. He jumped onto the slippery, angled roof, half crawled his way to the window and when he looked up, what he saw made him stagger backwards.
It wasn’t Pops at the window. The person who’d been watching him was a young woman with a skeletal face and stringy hair, laughing to see that the trick had worked. Now James would burn to death.
Tina floated among the decrepit ruins of the sunken ship. Before falling asleep, she and Jamey had decided on a wreck dive and she’d imagined a wrecked pirate ship at thirty-five feet under, somewhere in the Caribbean. Who knew if such a place existed beyond her mind, but as Jamey always said, “Darlin’, if you can imagine it, we can go there in a dream.”
If anyone had told Tina two years ago that she’d have this vivid dream life, she would’ve laughed in their face. Until Jamey, she hadn’t believed in paranormal mumbo jumbo. A business major, Tina had been influenced by her traditional upbringing with two very conservative parents and hadn’t even heard of most of this shit before Jamey came back into her life and revealed he was a psychic freak. Then the mumbo jumbo became her life—entering other people’s dreams, sharing lucid dreams, even telepathy, which Jamey called hyper-intuition as a way of soft-peddling a “strange-ass ability.” It was all Jamey’s doing. He’d brought the strangeness into her life.
Tina kicked through crystal clear, turquoise water, across the deck of the pirate ship, Jamey back there somewhere. She was the dive instructor with the most experience, the boss underwater.
Pulling herself through a doorway on the schooner, she floated down the stairs to what looked like the ship’s dining room. A long wooden table and benches dominated the room. As ordered, the visibility of the water was extraordinary, the fish plentiful and the exploration of this ship fascinating. A large candelabra dominated the center of the dining table, an ornate chair with carvings of mermaids at one end.
When she turned to Jamey to point out the chair, he wasn’t there. Had he not followed her? She kicked herself up the stairs to the deck, but Jamey was nowhere to be seen. That was strange. He couldn’t leave a dream without her. She controlled this ability now, not him. Where was he? If he’d woken, she would’ve too.
Tina took the water from the dream and stood on the deck. “Jamey?’ Where’d you go?” she called into the dream.
Where the hell was he?
The ship wasn’t so large that he wouldn’t hear her. “Jamey?”
She glanced over the railing to see that the vessel now rested on a sandy bed in what used to be a picturesque bay. Then, she heard an anguished cry from her husband.
“No!” Jamey’s voice sounded very far away.
Tina ran to the bow’s highest point. Aside from that one word, the dream was deathly quiet around her. “Jamey!”
Footsteps sounded on the wooden stairs and seconds later, Jamey emerged from the doorway.
Tina jumped down from the higher deck and ran towards her husband. “Where were you?”
“We need to end this.” His face had that shut up and follow my lead look. “I’ll tell you what happened when we jump out.” He still wore his scuba gear but had removed his regulator from his mouth and his face mask. “Now!”
She didn’t ask why they needed to leave. Didn’t have to. Jamey was the expert dreamer. They joined hands, ran to where they’d arrived in the dream, and on Jamey’s “1, 2, 3…” jumped into the air.
The trip back to their prone bodies in their Maui bedroom was less than two seconds from the moment they jumped. Tina opened her eyes still holding her husband’s hand from when they fell into the dream, probably only minutes earlier. She sensed something was wrong. Terribly wrong.
Jamey bolted upright. “I was taken into another dream.”
That was impossible. “How?”
“I don’t know. But, Pops’ house was on fire. Burning to the ground. It was snowy and Pops was inside, trapped in his bedroom. I kept yelling at him to jump out the window, into the snow, but he wouldn’t.” Jamey turned to her, his eyes skittish with emotion. “He just watched me, nodding, like this was his time to die. He didn’t even try to escape. I got a ladder and when I reached the window, he turned into a ghoulish woman.” He covered his face with his hands and let out a strangled sob.
Tina slid over to wrap her arms around him. “Was it a proph?” They’d taken to calling premonitions this, shortening the word prophetic.
“I couldn’t tell. Everything was on fire. I don’t know.” Jamey was rattled, a state she rarely saw with her confident husband, the ex-cop and soldier. “The Christmas tree was in the window.”
Tina wondered if Pops had his tree up yet. “If everything was bright, maybe it was a normal dream.” Normals were innocent. Prophs were easy to tell with pale colors and fuzzy edges. “Probably just a bad dream, Jamey.” She hadn’t seen her husband this upset since she went into labor with Kai nine months earlier. “Your dad wouldn’t just let himself die inside a burning house.”
Jamey’s breathing was labored. “You’re probably right. But who the hell was that woman?” His eyes darted around the room. “She looked young, but dead and she laughed like she’d caught me in a trap.”
“Maybe nothing,” she offered. “I wish I’d come with you to this dream.” How had he left her dream on his own? “Call Pops to see if he’s doing fine.”
“Yes, I will.” He got out of bed to retrieve his phone from the dresser top.
In another two weeks, she and Jamey would head to the mainland with Kai to spend Christmas in snowy Carnation, Washington. Maybe Jamey was just worried about his father and it came through in his sub-conscious, causing him to have bad dreams. After all, that’s what dreams were supposed to be—the hindbrain not shutting off during sleep and amusing itself with all your memories and emotions while your front brain shut down. “How did you enter a different dream?”
Tina waited while Jamey dialed his father’s number, her cheek resting on the back of her husband’s shoulder. For over a year, she’d been leading these dreams they called Fantasy Fun Time, as a joke. Jamey had never left one in the middle. Her timing of the dream was his timing like he was attached to her. She’d shared probably a hundred dreams with Jamey ever since he’d unknowingly passed a thirty-four-year-old ability to her in the dive shop over a year earlier.
“Pops, you okay?” Jamey said. It was three hours later in Carnation, but still too early for a leisurely phone call. “Sorry I woke you.”
She studied Jamey’s gorgeous profile in the darkness of their bedroom, his jaw tense. Pops was used to years of middle of the night calls, simply to check in. He didn’t need details.
“Just a bad dream, I guess.” Jamey mumbled to his father. “Don’t get your Christmas tree until I get there, okay?” After they hung up, Jamey turned to Tina. “He hasn’t got the tree yet. Either I drifted from your dream or the new dream was still part of our diving dream. Regardless of whether the dream was a proph or not, I have a very strong feeling that Pops’ house is going to burn down.” He took a deep breath. “I need to get to Carnation. See what’s going on. I’ll leave as soon as I can get a flight out.”
She nodded, knowing two things. Jamey wasn’t an alarmist and her husband was rarely wrong about dreams.
Pops pulled up curbside at SeaTac airport, south of Seattle. Jamey threw a duffle bag in the back of the old Ford truck and hopped in the cab. “Surprise.”
“Good to see you early, Kid.” Pops navigated away from the curb, and into traffic.
“Sorry to land during rush hour.” Jamey patted his father’s dog, Harry, who sat on the bench seat between them. Harry was loyal only to Pops after being rescued last year. He barely had time for anyone else, but he did allow Jamey to pat his neck.
“No problem. It’ll give us some chew-the-fat time,” Pops said.
That was Pops. Always saw the silver lining. And for that reason, Jamey hadn’t told his seventy-five-year-old father that he’d seen him in the window of his bedroom while the house burned down around him. Only that he was coming to Seattle ahead of his wife and son for many reasons, including more time with his twin daughters who lived nearby. His dad seemed to buy that, especially when Jamey told him he wanted to come early to spend more time with his girls. Pops knew all about Jamey’s dreams, jumping, prophs, remembrances, and all the intricacies of the ability but Jamey didn’t want to worry him.
In some ways, Pops was more the expert on dream jumping than Jamey having spent his whole life listening to accounts of jumps from his brother Don—someone who was now dead from a heart attack during a jump with a serial killer. Throughout his childhood, Pops had been Don’s go-to for dream jumping and now was Jamey’s. This made him what Jamey teased “the encyclopedia of weird shit,” keeping mental notes to help Jamey make sense of a life he hadn’t chosen.
On the fifty-minute drive to Carnation from the airport, Jamey even told his father the secret he’d been keeping from Tina for months. A secret he guarded daily. “I’m jumping again. I got it back, but I can’t tell Tina. Not yet.”
Pops looked to his son with raised eyebrows, “How’s that going, keeping a secret from your smart wife?”
“I’ve done harder things in my life,” he answered. “She can’t know, or it puts her in a difficult position if the military comes for me. I don’t want anyone on that psychic team in Afghanistan picking her brain for information about my ability.”
“You’ve done a good job keeping her safe from induction,” Pops added.
Jamey had to agree, although it hadn’t been easy. Having lost the dream jumping ability over two years earlier, he’d been useless to the Force and was on leave. But Tina… “If Milton knew the extent of Tina’s abilities, they’d be after her before they could say “We love psychics.”
“Apparently, they have better people on the Force now for honing in on enemy secrets. They don’t need dream jumping.” Jamey looked out the truck window at the Seattle skyline as they turned east off I-5, towards Carnation. “Until I’m released from duty, I have to keep pretending I can’t jump on my own, just in case Milton is lying about his hot-shot new psychics. I think he’d still love to pull a confession out of me. I’ll keep lying to Tina for her own good.”
“How’d you get jumping back?”
“Not sure, but I entered Kai’s baby dream a few months ago, on my own.” Jamey chuckled to think how basic a baby’s dream is. “It’s strange I lost the ability after weird brain activity on a bad jump with another jumper, and I got it back with an innocent baby dream.” Over the last few months, he’d thought a lot about what might have restarted his ability, but hadn’t come up with a definite conclusion. Only that maybe it had to grow from a very basic dream. His first jump had been short and sweet, almost like his ability needed the simplest dream there was to take hold of. “I wondered at the time if Kai’s a jumper and pulled me into his dream like Tina does.”
“Have you entered other people’s dreams besides jumpers’?”
He knew why Pops asked. If not, it probably meant Kai was a jumper and Jamey still wasn’t. “I have.” He looked at his dad. “I needed to test it after Kai’s dream, but because I have to be touching the dreamer, that was a tough one. We had friends over with young kids and the four year old took a nap on our bed. I went in the room and jumped. Then, the next week I was on the boat with a friend when he fell asleep on the way back from fishing.”
“Hopefully he didn’t wake up with you touching him inappropriately,” Pops smiled.
Jamey shook his head. “That would’ve been hard to explain.” The two men chuckled. “His dream was more elaborate and it took a while to get in, but I did. I wondered if my ability had to grow again before I could just jump adult normals.”
“That makes sense,” Pops chuckled. “If anything about dream jumping actually makes sense.”
They zipped along Interstate Highway 90, and soon pulled off at Fall City towards Carnation. Jamey was amazed how much snow covered his hometown as they drove over the bridge, turned right and headed down the road. Soon they were navigating Pops’ long driveway. “You said there’d be snow, but I thought you were just trying to get your grandson here for Christmas,” Jamey said.
“Callin’ me a liar?” Pops parked the truck. They exited the garage and Jamey headed for the house. A house where Pops had raised four children, pretty much by himself. Pops hung back with Harry, the mixed breed, who was sniffing around the back yard.
“I’ll be there in a jiffy, Pops said. “Harry needs to make some yellow snow.”
Inside, Jamey did a quick check of the main floor to look for anything suspicious. Anything that might stand out as a fire hazard. There were no old rags soaked in anything flammable lying around, no faulty wires springing from lamps. In the basement, the fuse box looked normal, there was nothing to suggest that the house would go up in flames in the next few weeks. But, in the dream he’d seen a Christmas tree in the front window. It had to happen soon. In his hurried inspection, Jamey had noted that Pops did not have his Christmas tree yet. That was good.
The house looked like it always did—from the outside, in need of a coat of paint and a new roof, and from the inside, full of family photographs and old, familiar furniture. The only things Jamey could see that were different in the last few months were a string of twinkling Christmas lights over the fireplace in the front room and a large box full of decorations and lights where the tree would eventually go. Pops saved the decorating for Jamey and his daughters. The girls lived for this sort of thing.
Gavin, his oldest brother, was coming over tomorrow to offer a second opinion on the house’s safety. Besides Tina, Gavin was the only other person who’d heard Jamey’s dream in horrible detail. And Gavin had been justifiably worried. He’d seen his brother’s premonitions come true too many times to not worry.
“You can prevent this, right?” he’d asked Jamey on the phone.
“Absolutely.” Years earlier, Jamey had realized that the future could be altered from a prophetic dream with careful interference. And he planned to interfere, in a big way. For starters, he planned to take down the old Christmas lights at the front of the house with the excuse that he wanted to replace some bulbs. He’d buy new ones, just to be safe. Pops had owned those things for decades. The front yard tree looked okay. Pops had paid a handyman to decorate the twenty foot Douglas Fir tree on the front lawn, but that thing wasn’t close enough to the house to be a threat. Jamey didn’t even recall seeing the tree in the burning dream. He’d update the smoke detectors, buy some extinguishers, have an inspector come out to check the house, among other things.
As Pops stomped off the snow from his boots on the back deck, Jamey came up from inspecting the basement. The snow was falling fast out there, like the flakes were too heavy to float delicately to the ground.
“What are you looking for in the basement, Son?” Pops took off his winter coat at the back door and hung it on its usual hook.
“Just a tool,” Jamey had hoped his father wouldn’t see that he’d been in the basement.
“Maybe I know where it is. What is it?” Pops pulled out the Scrabble set from the games cupboard, while Jamey grabbed a beer from the fridge.
“A Philips screwdriver I bought last time I was here.” Jamey hated lying to his father and told himself it was for the best.
“Your brother probably took it. You know Gavin and tools.” When the tea kettle whistled, Pops made a cup of tea then cut a piece of mango bread that Tina made especially for her father-in-law. “I’m not sure who I love more right now,” Pops joked. “You, for coming early, or that wife of yours, who took up baking for me.” He slathered butter on the thick slice of bread and chuckled. “Can’t wait to see that little rug rat of yours too. He looks like he’s grown so much since last visit.”
Kai hadn’t been in his grandfather’s arms since July and he was almost eleven months old now. He’d recently taken up walking. Not smoothly, but he stumbled across the floor with his stance wide, his arms out and a big silly grin on his sweet face. Jamey remembered the last time Pops had seen Kai. “He’s not a baby anymore.” Years ago, Pops had made baby walking sticks for his granddaughters. The canes were yard-tall, sanded branches from Pops big walnut tree near the river. “Once Kai figured out the walking stick could help him with balance, there was no going back.”
Pops laughed. “I’d forgotten, it was so long ago. Those things must be twelve years old now.” His eyes twinkled. “The canes, I mean. I know the twins are twelve. You still driving them to school tomorrow morning? If you want to sleep in they can take that school bus you know.”
Pops was teasing him. Not only was Jamey not one to sleep in, but he hadn’t seen his daughters for weeks and was eager to get his hug around them. “Should be a great time to visit at seven a.m.” Jamey joked.
Pops unfolded the Scrabble board and laid it on the table. They’d decided to play a game before dinner. “Loser goes first,” Pops said, nodding for his son to start.
Jamey shrugged at the insult, knowing the taunting had begun. “Happy to, Old Man.” He arranged his Scrabble letters to spell meal even though he had enough letters for flame. Instead he held on to the f.
“The twins are excited to have Kai coming.” Pops added the letters ose to the l to make lose. “They have all kinds of plans for Kai and Harley to be best friends.”
Jamey’s ex-wife’s baby, Harley, was a month older than Kai. “I doubt Kai will even notice Harley for another two years,” Jamey said, adding the word smoke to Pops’ s. He gave his father a squinty look. “Still not smoking?”
“Never again,” Pops said, shaking his head. “Getting rid of that dad-burned oxygen machine was a triumph.” He looked down at the dog his granddaughters had found at the soccer field last year. Harry’s head lay on Pops’ slippered foot. “I need to be in the best shape to walk this stupid fart.”
Taking on a dog had breathed new life into Pops this year. That and his friendship with Tina’s widowed mother who lived forty minutes away on Mercer Island, near the downtown area of Seattle. “And play pinochle with Elizabeth, I hear,” Jamey added.
“You mean beat Liz at pinochle.”
When had his father started calling Tina’s stoic mother by a nick-name? Jamey smiled and watched Pops add an r to the word lose.
The doorbell rang and Harry barked, heading out of the kitchen and down the hall. Jamey liked that his Dad’s dog barked. It gave him a sense that someone was standing guard for his father. Especially with how jumpy he was feeling about Pops’ safety. Both men left the table to follow the dog down the hall. It was unusual to have someone come to the door out here in the country. Especially at night.
Jamey could see the shadows of two people through the sheer curtain on the top half of Pops’ front door.
“My neighbors,” Pops said reaching for the door handle. “You’re going to like these two.” Pops eyes lit up and his smile broadened as he opened the door to two rosy-cheeked people covered in snowflakes.
The couple standing on the front porch smiled at Pops, only slightly surprised to see Jamey behind his father. The young woman held a tray of something covered in tin foil.
“There’s the newlyweds!” Pops said. “Come in, come in.” He stood back to allow the guests to enter.
Jamey was surprised that Pops seemed completely overjoyed to see people Jamey had never even heard of. Even Harry wagged his tail excitedly.
“Amy and Max, this is my son, Jamey,” Pops said. Jamey’s intuition picked up on a genuine fondness between all parties but then you’d have to be anaesthetized not to feel that. Maybe it wasn’t telepathy he was feeling.
The couple were probably early thirties, her blonde, him brunette, both wholesome looking, and both smiling ear to ear. He was a big man, like Jamey but in his case, it looked to be mostly soft flab, not hardened muscle. They said hello to Jamey, then while Max bent to pet Harry, Amy handed the tray to Pops.
“I baked Christmas cookies for the first time ever,” Amy said proudly.
Jamey closed the door behind the guests. With a reception like that, and cookies in hand, they were obviously coming in for a while.
Max stomped the snow from his boots on the hall carpet and Jamey wondered why he didn’t do that outside. Clumps of snow fell from Max’s boots, then he stepped out of them.
“Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle,” Pops exclaimed, taking the offered plate. He peeked under the wrap. “And I get to eat all these or will you help me?” Pops nodded towards the kitchen for the guests to follow. “Come in.”
Amy took off her coat. “They are especially for you. They might not be that good,” she said to Jamey apologetically, like he wasn’t supposed to eat any. Amy’s blonde ponytail bounced as she followed Pops down the hall. “I hope we aren’t interrupting anything. I didn’t know you had company.”
Pops’ words about Jamey not being company faded into the kitchen.
Jamey brought up the rear of the group, behind Max, but half way down the hall, level with the table of photos of the family fishing and camping, the young man turned and smiled at Jamey. “I don’t remember Pops saying he had a son named Jamey.”
“Probably ashamed of me,” Jamey joked, and they entered the kitchen.
Pops put the kettle on for tea and cut slices of Tina’s mango bread while everyone seated themselves around the table that held the Scrabble board.
“I love Scrabble.” Amy uncovered her plate of Christmas cookies. They looked deluxe for someone who’d never made cookies before.
“Looks like you two just started this game,” Max grinned at Pops. “Any way we can join you?”
They agreed to begin again and by the time everyone had something to drink, Pops had put the first word on the board. Scared.
Max joked that he might be subconsciously telling them he was frightened to eat Amy’s cookies, and she playfully hit her husband on the shoulder. Harry sat between the guests waiting for a handout or waiting for something to drop. Maybe he knew they were messy eaters.
It looked like Pops knew these two well and Jamey wondered why he hadn’t heard about them before now. “Did you buy the Clancy house next door?” Jamey hadn’t known it was up for sale again.
“Yes,” Amy nodded. “We moved in before Thanksgiving.”
The Victorian house to the north of Pops’ property was big for only two people and although Jamey wanted to ask if they planned on having six kids, he held off. The place had been vacant for years and these two probably got it for a good price, especially because it had been neglected over the years.
Max spelled daring with the r from Pops’ word and it was Amy’s turn.
“It’s a big house. Used to be so grand.” Jamey took another cookie and noticed Amy look at him. Did she only wanted Pops to eat the cookies?
“We love it,” Max said. “For months Amy and I have been looking for a Victorian and finally found our dream home. Right Amy?”
She nodded. “Right now we’re making lists of things that need to be replaced and repaired. It’s been so long since that old place had any attention.”
Max looked at Jamey. “Do you two know anything about the ghost?”
Jamey wasn’t surprised to hear rumors of a ghost, but the way Max asked, set his teeth on edge. It was almost as if the neighbor had a strange fascination. That was Jamey’s impression. He shook his head. “I never heard there was one,” he lied.
But Pops nodded. “I’ve heard talk, but I’m not sure I believe in all that.” Pops was lying too. For one thing, he knew very well that ghosts existed because he’d heard all about Tina’s experience last year.
“Me neither,” Amy said, setting down the word dumb off the d. “Max is obsessed with knowing more, but I’d like to ignore that little morsel of information. I just love my house.”
Pops nodded to Amy. “We talked about this when I got the tour of the house last month, but I don’t really know anything. Max, what do you know?”
Max shrugged. “Not much. Only that the woman who lived there jumped off the widow’s walk and the dad and kids moved away. The lady at the post office told me that she committed suicide after her baby died.”
Amy shot a warning look at her husband.
Jamey set the word guard off the g and nodded to Max.
Pops downed another cookie in one bite and then spoke. “It was a tragedy. Now, of course, they speculate Edna Clancy had post-partum depression, and when the baby died, she went off the deep end. At the time though, post-partum wasn’t even a thing.” He shook his head like it was all too sad.
Jamey’s ex, Carrie, had had post partem with the twins, and with her son, Wyatt. It was a horrible affliction at a time when women should be enjoying their new baby. Luckily Tina had remained her happy self when Kai was born. His sweet wife had taken on the glow and happiness of being a mother for the first time. He reached for a shortbread and avoided looking at Amy.
“I do believe this is as good as yesterday’s banana bread.” Pops held up another cookie decorated with a green Christmas tree.
It sounded like the neighbors were trying to fatten up his father. He made a remark about that and Max jumped in to defend his wife.
“She’s learning to bake. Pops and I are the tasters.”
Pops’ eyes twinkled and he looked fondly at Max. “We’ll be the guinea pigs anytime won’t we, Max?”
Amy smiled, Max laid down ass after dumb, and they all laughed.
Tina and her friend Pepper had gone diving for lobster, and now the two women sat on Tina’s deck digging in to the succulent tails in front of them. The garlic butter sat between their place settings along with a bottle of crisp Chardonnay.
Tina picked up her goblet of wine. “To us, Pepper. The singer and the psychic.” They laughed and she took a big sip of wine. Revealing her abilities to Pepper, last week had been a tough one for Tina but after having a premonition that her friend would be in a serious car accident, she’d had to intervene. Jamey wanted as few people as possible to know about dream jumping, but they’d agreed that Pepper was Kai’s godmother and like family. Shortly after hearing about the imminent accident, Pepper’s planned road trip to Hana with her boyfriend was cancelled and a broken arm was avoided.
Although Tina and Jamey didn’t know the long-term repercussions of tampering with a premonition, they couldn’t sit back and watch friends, family, and each other be the victim of bad luck. They’d made the decision a year ago to interfere with the course of things if the future looked bad. Premonitions didn’t come that often, nor did the proph dreams.
With garlic butter dripping from their chins and lobster in their mouths, the two women were happily engaged when the phone rang. It was Jamey. Tina quickly wiped off her hands on a napkin, said “I gotta get it,” to Pepper, and answered the call.
“Hi, Gorgeous,” Jamey said. “I miss you.”
“Me too.” Hearing those words spoken by that voice always made her feel warm and fuzzy.
“How’s Pops doing?” she asked.
“He’s feeling kind of sick right now. Went to bed early. I think he ate too many Christmas cookies,” Jamey added.
Tina had a sense that Pops was ill. She could do this type of thing sometimes, through the phone.
“But other than that, he’s good. Very happy. I think your mother might have something to do with his general state of happiness.”
Even though they both wanted their respective parents to enjoy each other’s company, it was still too close to Tina’s father’s death for her to imagine her mother having a boyfriend. Especially Pops.
“There’s a lot of snow here.”
She could hardly wait to see it and wondered what Kai would think of snow. “I bet it looks beautiful.”
Before they said goodbye Jamey told her about the new neighbors. “They’re really fond of Pops and visa versa.”
“It’s good for him to have friends next door,” she added.
“True. We had fun tonight playing Scrabble. I’ll be interested to hear your take on them.”
“Something weird?” she asked.
“Not weird at all. Wholesome and outwardly normal. Just maybe too familiar with Pops,” he said.
“Do I detect a note of jealousy in there?” Tina teased. She looked at Pepper with a look to say I’ll tell you in a minute. “But Pops likes them?”
He chuckled. “Oh yea. The woman, Amy, especially who keeps baking for him.”
Now Tina’s nose was out of joint. “Well, just keep shoving my mango bread in front of your father, and he’ll forget all about that woman next door.”
Jamey laughed. “Between you and Amy, Pops is going to be fat by New Year’s.”
When they hung up, Tina made a plan to bring her newly acquired recipes to Carnation and show Pops her new cooking skills. “I lost Pops to a baking next door neighbor,” Tina told Pepper.
“You look serious,” Pepper’s smile left her face. “Ti, if someone is baking for Pops, that’s nice, right? He still loves you.”
“You’re right, but teaching me to cook is my thing with Pops’. I’m his protégé. I know it’s silly to say but I’m disappointed.” She couldn’t hide it from Pepper.
“You’ll get to Carnation in another week, do some cooking, trade some recipes, and the neighbor will soon be forgotten.” Pepper waited for confirmation.
“Probably right.” Tina picked up her fork to continue eating but the rest of the dinner was filled with thoughts of the neighbor, Amy, weaseling her way into Pops heart through food. By the time Pepper left, Tina was so upset she dug out the recipe box that her father-in-law had given her and pulled out all their favorite recipes to make over the Christmas holidays.
Nobody was going to one up her in Pops’ heart through baking.
Jamey saw the letter taped to the front door glass window when he came down the stairs the next morning. As he unlocked and opened the door, he noticed that Pops had left the front yard tree lights on last night. Before getting the envelope on the door, Jamey unplugged the lights from the porch outlet. Strange, he remembered his father going outside specifically to turn off the tree.
The envelope was addressed to Pops, in large, bold handwriting. Maybe an invitation to a party. He pulled it from the glass and went inside, setting the envelope on the kitchen table. The house was cold so he turned up the heat to sixty-eight and then made coffee. Pops preferred a cup of tea in the mornings, but Jamey had to have his coffee. Today he’d drive the girls to school and come back here to ask Pops if he wanted to go Christmas shopping. The sky hadn’t begun to lighten yet at 6:45.
Later, standing in the hall at Carrie and Chris’s house, Jamey thought again about the letter-sized envelope and wondered what the envelope held.
“Dad!” Jade raced down the hall, ready to go.
“Squirt!” He hugged his daughter tightly. “Where’s Squirt two?”
“Hair,” Jade said into his heavy coat.
“That’s important,” he said. If Jasmine’s hair wasn’t perfect, Jamey would wait with his less-fastidious daughter. “Why is Jaz always late?”
“I don’t know Dad. She’s just a perfectionist, I guess.”
Jade was getting so tall. He’d last seen them a month ago when he’d flown over to talk to Pops about some family business and they probably hadn’t grown much since then, but he felt like his daughters’ childhood was a thing of the past. They were going to be teenagers soon and he wasn’t ready. Wyatt didn’t want to drive with Jamey and had gone on the bus five minutes earlier.
Carrie stood with a cup of coffee in hand, her preschooler, Mango, still asleep upstairs, her husband off to work, and the baby, Harley, crawling at her feet. “Have a good flight yesterday?” she asked.
“Yup, uneventful.” He and Carrie had a good relationship now that they weren’t married anymore. “So much snow this year.”
She nodded. “The kids love it.” She set her coffee on the stairs and picked up Harley who’d begun to fuss. “Pops looks good, don’t you think?”
“He does, although he went to bed with a belly ache from eating too many cookies last night.” He smiled at Jade and called for his other daughter. “Come on Jaz. The Daddy bus is pulling out.” He smiled at Harley, a cute little baby with red curls like his mother, then opened the door to leave. “See you later, Carrie and company.” That’s what he called his ex and her five children.
After dropping the twins off at the school, he returned to Pops’ house to find the letter open on the kitchen table. No sign of Pops or Harry, the dog. Seeing the paper was lying face up, he leaned over and looked at it. The page did not look like an invitation. He read the letter.
Max and I feel like we’ve done everything we can to try to get you to turn off your house lights at night so they don’t shine in our windows. And now you’ve gone and put up a tree with a thousand lights, you say, and that is bothersome too. What we don’t understand is that you seem to be a nice neighbor but when we ask you to turn off the high wattage lights at night so we can get some sleep next door, you ignore our request.
If this continues, I’m afraid we are going to take legal action.
Max and Amy Overton
What the hell? This letter didn’t sound like the nice people who’d played Scrabble last night. Had they written it after they left here? Jamey went looking for Pops and found him in bed. It wasn’t like his father to go back to bed. “What’s going on Pops, you still not feeling well?”
“Just a little under the weather today, Kid. I might stay in bed for a bit.” His face looked grey and Jamey’s first instinct was to take his father to the emergency clinic.
“Should we pay a visit to Doc Sheridan?” He moved into the room to stand over his father’s bed.
“Nothing that bad. I’m just going to have a lazy day.” Pops patted his faithful dog. Me and Harry are going to go back to sleep and see if that helps.”
Jamey looked out the window at the yard. The snow had stopped falling for now, and the sky had broken up to include some blue on the horizon. What would Tina recommend he do for Pops? She was the voice of reason in a situation like this. Then, he remembered the letter. “This doesn’t have anything to do with that letter on the kitchen table does it?”
“No. I don’t think Max and Amy wrote that letter,” Pops said. “I don’t leave lights on overnight. I got another one of those and asked them if the lights bothered them, why didn’t they just tell me to shut off the damned things. They said they didn’t write the letter. I’ve been getting prank phone calls too.” He tried to smile at Jamey, but failed. “Don’t worry. It’s just kids. When I asked Max, he said he hasn’t got a clue who’s behind it, but it’s not them.”
“Phone calls too?”
“Just hang ups and then there was one where the caller said he was watching me. It’s just teenagers.”
Jamey hated to hear of anyone trying to frighten his father. Pops looked so tired lying in bed, Jamey said they could talk later. “Go back to sleep you lazy guys.” He exited the room, leaving the door open and vowed if his dad didn’t feel better by this afternoon, they were heading to the doctor.
His coat was on the banister. He put it on and was out the door before he realized what he was doing. Trudging through the snow down the road, Jamey thought about the note. He had a feeling they wrote it, claimed they didn’t but still got the point across that they wanted Pops to turn off his lights at night. Jamey found himself at Max and Amy’s house, standing right under where they must’ve found Mrs. Clancy’s body so long ago. He pushed on the door bell, rehearsing what he’d say to them. Do you have any idea what’s going on with these notes on the door? And if, in fact, you did write the notes, what’s the matter with you people?
But no one answered the door. He rang the bell three more times. A truck was in the driveway. Unless they both went out in another car, someone was home.
By now the sun had come out and was beginning to melt the snow on the road. When Jamey arrived back at Pops’ house, he read the letter again, wondering whose handwriting it was. Writing longhand was risky or stupid. Sitting at the kitchen table with his laptop, he made a plan on how to prepare Pops house for fighting an enormous fire, a plan that started with a smoke detector in his father’s bedroom.
Next, he tried to find an electrician to come out and inspect the place but no one was available until after Christmas. “Can’t you find an hour or two before then?’ he kept asking. But no one had the time.
Everyone he called reminded him it was the holidays and they could come after Christmas when things died down.
The word “die” wasn’t lost on Jamey, but he couldn’t very well tell them the house would be burned to the ground by then.