DIG INTO A SHALLOW GRAVEAND A NEW PARANORMAL COZY MYSTERY SERIES.
Emily Buchanan has always dealt with ghosts at Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast—after all, it is next to the town’s historic cemetery. When paranormal activity begins to escalate, though, she knows that someone—or something—is desperately trying to communicate. When a body is discovered in a shallow grave, an old town scandal is resurrected, and Emily knows she has to find out what happened if her guests and her ghosts are ever going to get a good night’s sleep.
SWEET DREAMS, the first full-length novel in the new Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast paranormal cozy mysteries by Beth Dolgner. Set in the rural North Georgia town of Oak Hill, where antiques shopping is a lot more common than murder, Emily Buchanan runs Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast in a Victorian house built right next to a cemetery. Emily teams up with her best friend and psychic medium Sage Clark and the ghosts of Eternal Rest to solve murders. The only mystery Emily can't solve is why her late husband's spirit seems to be trapped between this world and the next.
Emily balanced the tray in one hand as she put the other against the dining room door. Before she could push it open, she heard a gasp and a woman’s nervous giggle. Smiling, Emily glanced at the chocolate chip cookies piled on the tray. They were fresh out of the oven, but they could wait. Whether or not something paranormal was happening in the dining room, she didn’t want to break her guests’ concentration.
Sage’s low, sonorous voice drifted into the hallway as Emily turned and walked quietly back to the kitchen. On the rare occasions there was an extra place at the table, Emily would join in the monthly séance. As usual, though, the Spirited Saturday Night package at Eternal Rest Bed and Breakfast was sold out. People came from all over the country for the chance to spend the weekend with ghosts.
Emily put the tray down on the small wooden table shoved into one corner of the kitchen. All of the appliances were modern, but this little table was an antique that had been in the house for decades. She sat down with a satisfied sigh, then shrugged and picked up a cookie. Someone should enjoy them while they’re warm, she thought. Emily stretched her legs out in front of her and kicked off her shoes. A quiet moment like this was rare on these weekends. Spirited Saturday Night guests started arriving at lunchtime on Friday and stayed through Sunday morning. On Friday night, Emily would host a welcome reception, where the guests drank cocktails with spooky names and listened to Emily’s stories about the Victorian house’s history as a home to both the living and the dead. Emily’s best friend, Sage Clark, took over on Saturday night, treating everyone to a séance. Sometimes there wasn’t much paranormal activity, but there was always something. Emily had been skeptical about psychics when she first met Sage, but after years of seeing her in action, Emily was a believer—in Sage’s abilities, at least. She still inwardly scoffed at some of the ridiculous claims made by other psychic mediums who came to stay at Eternal Rest.
With a sigh, Emily wiped a few crumbs from her lips and stood up. If she got the coffee maker ready to go for tomorrow, then she could simply flip the switch in the morning to get it going in time for breakfast. The dishwasher needed to be unloaded, too, and the garbage was full. And when she took the garbage bag out to the bin, Emily could grab the watering can and get the plants watered while she was out there. It had been an unusually warm day for this early in March.
Emily allowed herself a few moments of self-pity while she slipped on her shoes again. Running a bed and breakfast in this house had always been her dream. Doing it all by herself had never been part of the plan.
About half an hour later, just as Emily had relaxed into the kitchen chair again, she heard the dining room door squeak open and footsteps in the hallway. When she went out to greet her guests, everyone was smiling.
“You should have been there!” exclaimed one of the men. “There were knocking noises!”
Emily smiled and offered her best effort at surprise. “That’s fantastic!”
“It was so exciting,” added his wife. “And Sage, oh, what a talented medium she is. You, my dear, have a very crowded house, even if you can’t see most of the inhabitants!”
Emily glanced past the guests to catch Sage’s eye, and they exchanged gratified smiles. A successful séance always meant good reviews on the online travel sites, and it oftentimes meant guests would come back again to experience more. After staying in a haunted bed and breakfast, going back to staying in ordinary hotels was just too boring for some people.
The four couples drifted up the stairs to their rooms, calling good night to Emily and Sage while still giggling and talking with each other.
“They were easily impressed,” Emily said quietly once the final set of feet had reached the second-floor landing.
“People usually are,” Sage agreed. “For people who don’t normally witness any kind of paranormal activity, even the smallest thing is thrilling.” Sage was still smiling, dimples showing in her round face. She absent-mindedly fingered the ankh pendant hanging around her neck, and her eyelids drooped. Her eyes seemed to be fixed on a spot on the wall, but Emily knew it was the face Sage made when she was trying to channel a message from a spirit.
“You made cookies,” Sage said abruptly.
“Did a spirit just bother to show up and tell you that?”
Sage laughed. “I could smell them earlier. I hope you didn’t eat them all yourself.”
“Come on; they’re in the kitchen.” Emily led her back there, gesturing to the table while she automatically pulled a bottle of cabernet off the white granite countertop. As she poured, she cleared her throat. “So, did he come by tonight?” She tried to make it sound casual, as always, but it still sounded desperate to her ears.
“Em, honey, you know he didn’t.” Even with her back to Sage, Emily could tell her friend’s smile was gone. “If Scott ever showed up, I would tell you immediately.”
“I know.” Emily jammed the cork back into the bottle and carried the two glasses over to the table. “And you know I have to ask.”
Sage picked up her glass and raised it in a toast. “Your husband loved you, and you loved him. I doubt he had any unfinished business. I say this to you every month, but there is no reason for his spirit to still be on this plane. But, like every month, here’s to his memory.” Sage clinked her glass against Emily’s.
After taking a long sip, the edges of Sage’s mouth turned up again. “Mrs. Thompson stopped by tonight. Bless her heart, she refuses to accept the fact that she’s dead. She thinks she still works for you.”
“I wish I had the ability to communicate with spirits like you. Mrs. Thompson always had the best town gossip to share. I bet she has even more now that she’s a ghost and can eavesdrop on everyone.” Emily had been fond of the elderly woman, a retired widow who had come to work at Eternal Rest two days a week, which gave Emily the chance to run errands and occasionally meet up with friends. “She’s been gone for five months already. I wonder when she’ll finally cross over.”
“I gave her a little prod in the right direction, but it might take her a while to get there. She was a stubborn old lady.”
“Oh, I’m not disrespecting the dead. It’s just the truth.” Sage pointed toward the ceiling, as if Mrs. Thompson was hovering above them. “She knows what I think. I told her so when she was alive, and I told her again tonight.”
The two women chatted until their wine glasses were empty. Sage covered her mouth as she yawned. “Wow, the spirits took it out of me tonight. Time to head home. I’ll see you tomorrow afternoon for coffee, right?”
Emily gave a mock salute as she rose. “I’ll be there.”
It was still a comfortable temperature outside. As Emily walked Sage across the front porch, which spanned the entire width of the house, a soft breeze promised that spring was on the way. Emily took a deep breath, smelling the dogwood blossoms that were just appearing on the trees that flanked the brick stairs leading up to the porch. The white flowers always looked so pretty against the dark-blue exterior of the house. Sage paused suddenly and turned to her left, looking in the direction of the cemetery that sat next to the house. The golden glow of the porch light made it impossible to see the cemetery in the darkness beyond, but its invisible presence could still be felt.
Sage was motionless for a long time, her eyes again taking on their half-lidded look. As the silence dragged on, the breeze suddenly felt cold to Emily, and a little shiver worked its way from the base of her spine up to her neck. Finally, unable to stand the suspense, Emily whispered, “What?”
Sage shook her head, as if she were forcing herself to refocus. Her voice had just a tinge of worry. “I don’t know.” When she caught Emily’s concerned look, she reached out and squeezed her arm. “Nothing to worry about. Sometimes other entities are drawn to the séances, but usually they’re too weak to communicate anything. Well, good night, Em. See you tomorrow!”
Emily stayed on the porch as she watched Sage get into her car and drive away, trying to sense whatever had caught Sage’s attention, but all she felt was the night air. Finally, with one last shiver, Emily went back inside, locking the heavy wooden door behind her.
There were a few empty glasses in the dining room, so Emily stacked them and took them back to the kitchen. She returned to put down the place settings for breakfast the next morning, then walked across the hall to check the parlor for any stray glasses. Like the dining room, the parlor was spacious and had windows on two walls. The windows in the wall facing the front porch stretched all the way from the floor to the ceiling. During nice spring and fall weather, the open windows gave guests easy access to the porch. North Georgia summers were too hot for that, and Emily was glad her grandparents had retrofitted the house with a very modern air-conditioning system. It still got stuffy on the third floor, but that gabled room was only used for storage now, anyway.
Finally done for the night, Emily double-checked that all of the lights were off and retreated into her bedroom, which was at the back of the ground floor, across the hall from the kitchen. The same breeze that had felt so good on the porch was now blowing through the open bedroom window. Not wanting to get a chill in the middle of the night, though, Emily shut it, but not before gazing toward the cemetery. The first headstones were only two-hundred feet away, and here at the back of the house, where the light from the porch didn’t reach, they stood out gray against the darkness. People who didn’t know Emily well always expressed shock when they learned her bedroom had a cemetery view, but Emily loved beginning and ending each day with the historic property. Yes, the house and cemetery grounds were haunted, but she had never experienced anything more uncomfortable than the flirtatious ghost of Mr. Dawson, who liked to personally welcome women to his mausoleum. And if there had been a truly evil entity lurking there, Emily was certain that Sage would have sensed it by now and given her a warning.
Emily’s mind immediately went back to Sage’s behavior on the front porch. She had definitely been sensing something unusual from the direction of the cemetery, and despite her words of reassurance, Emily couldn’t help but wonder what exactly Sage had perceived. Or maybe, thought Emily, the question wasn’t what, but whom.
© 2021 Beth Dolgner
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About the Author:
BETH DOLGNER writes paranormal fiction and nonfiction. Her first book was the nonfiction Georgia Spirits and Specters, which is a collection of Georgia ghost stories, followed by Everyday Voodoo. Beth made her fiction debut with the Betty Boo, Ghost Hunter paranormal romance series, set in Savannah, Georgia. In addition to writing, Beth also gives presentations on Victorian death and mourning traditions as well as Victorian Spiritualism. She’s always up for going looking for ghosts, too, just like her characters. You can usually find her haunting the historic cemeteries around her home in Berlin, Germany.
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