My Sweet Haunt
Baker City: Hearts and Haunts #1
by Josie Malone
Cobwebs, eerie sounds and creaky floorboards greet Cat O’Leary McTavish and her twin daughters when they move to their new home, a dilapidated dude ranch near Baker City in the Cascade foothills of Washington State. Her plan to restore the destination resort to its former glory hits a snag when she learns she has the ‘O’Leary Gift’ and can talk to the dead man who still resides in her house.
Former Army Ranger, Rob Williams always planned to run the family guest ranch after completing his military service. Instead, he “bought the farm with his life” when he died in Vietnam, but being dead doesn’t mean he’s going anywhere. Encountering someone who “sees” and “hears” him is a welcome change.
Cat’s determination leads her into danger, when they discover an adversary wants to turn the one-time dude ranch into a gravel pit.
Will a woman with a dream and a man who’s had his dreams cut short, manage to save a ranch and each other when the biggest surprise of all is love?
Release Date: April 23, 2019
Genre: Paranormal (Ghost) Romance
A Pink Satin Romance
Cedar Creek Guest Ranch,
Baker Valley, Washington
“If a man’s been dead more than forty years, he ought to be able to enjoy peace and quiet.”
Hearing the crunch of tires on the gravel driveway, the spirit of Rob Williams floated toward the picture window to see who dared come onto his land. A battered pickup stopped in front of the house. An equally ancient horse-trailer was hitched to the four-wheel-drive. Two little girls got out and raced around the rigs followed by a young black and gold collie, not much more than a puppy.
Not again. What was it going to take for his family to stop renting out his home? This was his place. He’d died for it at Hamburger Hill back in ’69 during the height of the Vietnam Conflict. He bought the farm with his blood. Well, actually his parents had used the money from his military insurance to pay off the last of the mortgage on their home. Rob had no intention of passing on to what was considered a ‘better place.’ Now, he had a new bunch of strangers to haunt and send away. He supposed he could call it a favorite hobby in what was supposed to be his after-life.
Suddenly, a copper-haired woman strolled into view from the far side of the truck. As he watched, she knelt and caught both girls in a hug. The pup flopped down beside them in the dust, panting. Rob may have been dead, but nothing said he couldn’t enjoy the sight of a woman who looked like one, instead of a scrawny hippie with no bosom, no waist, no hips and flowers in her long hair. That was the fashion back in the 1960s, but he’d never cared for it. Besides, curiosity had always been his downfall.
Rob drifted through the window and out onto the rotted deck of the wrap-around porch. The woman glanced toward the house and he glimpsed the emerald green of her eyes, as green as the needles on hemlock trees. Her head would have just reached his shoulder when he was alive. For a moment, he admired the voluptuous curves that filled out her lacy white western shirt and faded tight-fitting Levi’s. He could have fit both hands around her waist if only he could touch her. Rob moved closer. What was he doing? This woman was nothing to him and she would have to go, taking those kids and the dog with her.
He’d send them away, but not just yet.
* * *
Cat McTavish released her daughters and stood. “Okay, let’s settle down a little. I’ve got to convince Dynamite and Skyrocket that they’re safe and need to calm down. They can’t unless we do.”
“How come Dynamite’s so mad, Mommy?” Samantha asked, following her mother toward the trailer.
“He just is,” Sophie said, tagging along.
Cat smiled over her shoulder at them. She unlatched the hook on the back of the hauler. “He’s scared. That’s all.” The palomino hammered the rear panel with his hind feet, kicking the door open.
She whirled to check on the twins, but the girls carefully stayed out of reach. She breathed a sigh of relief. This horse had been the only one at the last Quarter-Horse auction within reach of her skimpy finances. She’d made progress with him during the five months she had him and he’d started to trust her, or maybe it was all the carrots she fed him. Treats might not be a popular strategy during the socialization process for some trainers, but they worked for her.
“Where are you gonnaput them, Mommy?” Samantha asked, interrupting her thoughts.
“In the barn?” Sophie asked. “Or in a paddock?”
“The round pen for now,” Cat said. “We have to fix up stalls for them, but first we have to check out the barn and make sure it’s in good enough shape for them.”
“What’s wrong with it?” Rob demanded. “It’s a dang good one. I should know. I helped my dad and grandpa build it.”
Cat swung around. She didn’t see anyone but could have sworn she heard a man speak. No, she didn’t. She knew better. She’d finally learned that lesson when she was thirteen.
Don’t make up stories, Catriona. Don’t say you see things no one else does, hear voices nobody else hears or you’ll wish you hadn’t. Nobody will say my daughter is as crazy as her Grandma O’Leary.
“Can you hear me?” Rob asked. “Nobody’s heard me talk since I passed. Usually, I have to throw things to get a reaction.”
“That’s naughty, mister.” Samantha shook her head, strawberry blonde curls bouncing. She pointed her finger at him. “Tantrums get you time-outs.”
“Or you have to stand in the corner if you’re real bad,” Sophie added.
“Who are you girls talking to?” Cat glanced at the empty yard once more. Only she and her daughters were here. The lawn sloped down to the creek. Maples, cottonwood and alder trees, bright with fall leaves framed the open yard. She didn’t see anyone watching from the nearby grove of evergreens, but she thought she’d heard someone. “Who?”
“That man.” Samantha moved her hand a little but continued to point toward the house.
Cat frowned. “What does he look like?”
“He’s taller than you, Mommy,” Samantha said.
“But not as big as Frazer,” Sophie chimed in.
“Terrific,” Cat muttered, and gave both girls a steady look. “I call your daddy by his first name. You don’t. Got it?”
Samantha nodded in mute acquiescence.
Sophie’s lower lip stuck out the proverbial country mile. She planted small hands on childish hips, narrowing summer-sky blue eyes, adopting one of her father’s poses. “But, Mommy—”
“I mean it, Sophia Gale. No being rude to your daddy or about him.”
Sophie continued to scowl, but finally nodded.
Cat counted her blessings. She wanted the girls to have a good relationship with their father, but it would be easier if he met her halfway. Instead, Frazer either ignored them or favored one over the other or pitted the two of them against each other. And now, she had to deal with another imaginary friend. The twins always seemed to find one whenever they moved to a new place.
It was the last thing she needed. Well, it shouldn’t cause any problems here. There wouldn’t be anyone else on the farm. She wouldn’t have that much company, just customers who wanted their horses trained and they rarely talked to the girls, much less listened to the eight-year-olds. Of course, things would change when she reopened the guest ranch next spring.
She opened the trailer door and checked Dynamite. The palomino had calmed down and stood quietly eating hay out of the net. She’d still be wary of darting hooves. “You girls stay back. I don’t want you hurt.”
“We’ll wait here,” Samantha said.