Checking Out

PEEPs Lite 9.1

Checking Out

A Haunted Series novella

by Alexie Aaron

I dedicate this book to the fans of urban legends. We all have spent a minute or two pondering if saying Bloody Mary three times in the mirror will bring the fabled girl, and we may actually have looked for the ghosts that walk the haunted highways. For those who spend more than a minute, that reach out and explore the legends, this book is for you.

Also by Alexie Aaron

HAUNTED SERIES

in order

The Hauntings of Cold Creek Hollow

Ghostly Attachments

Sand Trap

Darker than Dark

The Garden

Puzzle

Old Bones

Things that Go Bump in the Night

Something Old

PEEPS LITE

Eternal Maze 3.1

Homecoming 3.2

Checking Out 9.1

Coming in February 2014: Ice and Steel 9.2

CIN FIN-LATHEN MYSTERIES

Decomposing

Death by Saxophone

Discord

Dew Drop Inn

Burt pulled on the door to no avail. It was stuck fast. He ran over to the nearest window where he tore the curtains off the rod in his haste, exposing the green shutters. He raised the window and pushed at the shutters. They refused to open. Fact was, they didn’t budge at all. They were as fixed in place as the china representation of the Dew Drop Inn that he had admired on the mantle of the parlor upon his arrival yesterday.

“It’s a waste of energy,” the sweet voice said behind him. “Why don’t you relax and have another muffin? Millie has outdone herself with these cranberry orange confections.”

Burt turned and faced Mrs. Amelia Brewster, the owner of the inn. Today she wore a tweed business suit with a beige ruffled blouse, taupe hose and sensible shoes on her stout but fit body. Her salt and pepper hair was pulled into a French twist, her brows darkened dramatically, highlighting her large blue eyes. She gave Burt a pursed-lipped smile, inviting him to converse with her.

“What is going on here? This can’t be happening. Everyone else was able to leave here after a night’s stay,” Burt blurted out.

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand.” Mrs. Brewster asked, “Leave here? Why would anyone want to leave here? The Dew Drop has all your needs taken care of, Mr. Hicks. You have a warm comfy bedroom, en suite, and breakfast served twenty-four hours a day,” she listed. “Cooked and served by my daughter. You know she went to culinary school in Chicago, first in her confection class. Wait until you taste her croissants. Come,” she urged, “sit by the fire, and I’ll bring you a hot cup of coffee.”

“Are you crazy?” Burt asked. “Why are you keeping me prisoner here?”

“I am not. The inn is. Whatever the Dew Drop’s reasons are, you’re to be our guest for another day. May I recommend the pecan waffles?”

Burt backed away from the woman and turned back to the window. To his surprise, the draperies were back in place. He touched the material, and it felt real to him. Burt drew the curtains aside, and the shutters were now open. The sunny day that greeted him was incongruous to the January climate of southern Wisconsin.

“Why don’t you go out on the porch, and I’ll bring you another cup of coffee,” Mrs. Brewster suggested, opening the front door. “Or perhaps an ice cold glass of hand-squeezed lemonade?”

Burt walked over, puzzled by the ease in which the door moved in her hand.

“This was locked,” he claimed.

“Nonsense, it may stick a little in this balmy weather, but we never keep it locked. It wouldn’t be hospitable would it? After all, the Dew Drop Inn has the best reputation six years running. Better Homes and Gardens had a three page photo spread on the inn in their May 1970 edition.”

Burt walked out the door, but before his foot hit the wooden steps he was cautioned.

“Careful, Mr. Hicks, that second step could kill you.”

Burt looked down horrified to see the second step was now hundreds of feet below the inn. He felt the strong hand of the hostess on his shoulder.

“Why don’t you just sit over here and enjoy the sunshine.”

Dazed, he let her guide him to the Adirondack rocker. He sat down, and despite Mrs. Brewster’s insistence it was a balmy day, Burt was cold.

“I hope you saved room for muffins,” she said entering the inn. “You certainly enjoyed packing away all those pancakes this morning.”

Burt looked at the empty threshold and listened to the retreating steps of the owner of the B&B. Burt’s stomach rumbled, and he suspected he was starving. He didn’t feel the warmth of the sun as it fell across his lap. Burt looked at his hands and saw that they were red and chapped. His eyes assured him that he was sitting on the porch of an inn in summer. His body told him another story.

“What the hell is going on here?”

Chapter One

Mia fought to release herself from the hold of the white stuff that surrounded her body. She lay on her back floundering. She sank deeper and deeper until all she could see was white above and around her. Mia twisted her body around and struggled until her feet made contact with solid ground. She stood up, shaking off the clinging snow as she formed a snowball. She threw it hard at her target, and before it landed she had formed another one.

“Ouch! You have to be freaking kidding me!” Ted complained as he retreated behind the PEEPs truck. Digging out the snow from the collar of his coat, he called, “I surrender!”

His plea was answered by a snowball skidding over the hood of the truck two inches from his head.

Cid looked down from his window. He had witnessed the whole fight. Mia and Ted were clearing a path through the drifted snow to the woodpile when Ted tossed a shovel full of snow on top of her. She retaliated with a barrage of curses, followed by the rapid fire of quickly formed snowballs. Ted charged forward, picked her up and deposited her in a snowdrift, claiming that would cool her off. At first Mia looked like defenseless turtle laying there on her back as she sank into the deep snow. But Mia wasn’t a turtle and hardly defenseless. She sprang up out of the snow, throwing an arsenal of snowballs. She had Ted cornered behind the Paranormal Entity Exposure Partners command center crying uncle.

“I think, Maggie, Uncle Cid better put some hot chocolate on the stove. Those two are going to be frozen by the time they reach an accord.”

The young mixed breed dog sniffed in agreement. Anything that got the cooking man to the kitchen was a good idea. She followed him through the tiny apartment over the PEEPs office and out onto the deck.

“Hot cocoa in five minutes,” Cid called down to the couple. “Mia, it isn’t ladylike to make Ted eat snow…. I don’t care what he put down your pants… I can’t believe I just said that,” Cid mumbled, turning red.

Maggie barked.

Distracted, Mia let go of Ted’s arm, and he wiggled away. He grabbed a handful of snow and shoved it up under Mia’s parka. She screamed as she danced around getting rid of the remaining snow. She tackled Ted, and the two of them landed in a drift of snow, inches shy from a stand of young maple trees.

“You two better stop before someone loses an eye!” Cid warned. “Come on in, and leave your boots outside,” he instructed. “First one here gets gingerbread biscotti.”

Mia looked up at their good friend and fellow paranormal investigator. She climbed off Ted, shaking off the snow she had gathered when she slid over the truck before landing on a very surprised Ted. They had wrestled in the snow between the company vehicles for a while. Mia had just gained an advantage on her tall thin husband when Cid came out.

“Come on, Mia, get off me. Cid said gingerbread. You love gingerbread,” Ted reminded her.

“I do, almost as much as you,” she said and leaned down.

Ted closed his eyes and puckered his lips.

Mia picked up a handful of snow and washed his face with it. She jumped up and ran towards the barn.

Ted laughed as he wiped his face with his scarf. By the time he got to his feet, Mia had already managed the stairs and had one boot off.

Mia watched her husband as he strode over to the stairs, cleaning off the snow he could reach as he walked. Ted was a good sport. In their play fights, she didn’t have to hold back to maintain his ego. He knew that she respected him, and she knew he was letting her win. His six-foot four inches of lean muscle could have easily outmaneuvered her petite frame. But he didn’t. In doing so he suffered all the joys a few feet of freshly fallen snow could bring. Mia giggled and greeted Ted with a long hot kiss.

“What, no snow?” he growled.

“I think you’ve learned your lesson,” Mia said.

Ted stepped out of his boots, picked up Mia’s discarded ones and said, “Let’s get in there. My tootsies are cold.”

Mia ...

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