For my final #SamhainShort, here’s an excerpt from the book that started it all, Wandering Soul.
This is a spectral short instead of a ghostly one because Elsa’s body is still alive—on another continent and over a century in the future. She’s using her psychic ability of astral projection for her soul to travel back in time. Dante is unaware of that, and thinks she’s an angel sent to take him to the afterlife. Instead, she’s planning to teleport him back with her to Florida in the year 2015.
Oh, and did I mention that in this story Dante is the man behind the legend of the Phantom of the Opera? 😀
(THE SUMMER PARK PSYCHICS, Book One)
Copyright © 2015 Cassandra Chandler
All rights reserved – a Samhain Publishing, Ltd. Publication.
Dante turned to face the theatre. The fire had spread since they escaped. Smoke rose thickly from the building, blacking out the stars. There was no time to waste.
Though the main door had not yet succumbed to the fire, it was worse than he had imagined inside. Rafters were falling throughout the building, distant crashes mingling with roaring flames that licked across the ceiling and poured down the walls.
He crouched low to keep his head beneath the smoke as he made his way to the office where Klaus and Giselle spent most of their time poring over ledgers for the failing theatre. Nearing the room, he saw Klaus lying on the floor. Dante leapt over a timber to reach his brother’s still form, praying he was not too late.
“Klaus…” Dante’s throat seized, the loss overwhelming him. Klaus stared at the ceiling with glassy eyes that reflected the inferno surrounding them.
Dante had only known they were brothers for a week, yet the pain of Klaus’s loss brought Dante to his knees. He would never know why his brother hated him so much. Or why their father had waited until the very moment of his death to tell Dante they were kin. He would never understand why Heinrich had abandoned him. He could only guess it was due to his disfigurement.
The last moments of their father’s life played through Dante’s mind once more. Heinrich’s revelation that he was Dante’s father. The pained expression that swept across his face as he clutched his chest and fell from the catwalk where they had been speaking. The memory was so vivid, he could almost feel Heinrich’s grip going lax as he tried to hold on.
His most cherished dream, being part of a family, had literally slipped through his fingers. It had driven him somewhat mad at the time. He had even thought he had seen an apparition floating near him, a glowing angel whose gaze held a sadness and longing that matched his own.
Dante gently closed Klaus’s eyes. He could indulge in self-pity later, if he survived. Giselle was still in the theatre. There was a chance to save his brother’s wife. Dante was not sure she would deign to let him touch her, even if it was to carry her from a burning building.
He found Giselle not far from Klaus, a timber resting on her back where it had struck her down. She seemed to sneer at Dante, her lips curled up from her teeth. The lockbox for the theatre’s proceeds was clutched against her chest, scuff marks on the floor showing where she had dragged it back toward herself after falling.
How could someone be so filled with greed, even in the face of death? Dante left Giselle and the lockbox where he found them.
He headed for the side door that led to the carriage house, hoping the fire had not yet consumed that part of the building. Above the crackling flames, he could hear men shouting and the cries of frightened horses. The Fire Brigade must have arrived.
He started back the way he had come, only to find a wall of fire. The ceiling groaned in agony, moments from collapsing. Flames surrounded him. At every turn, smoke and heat assaulted his senses.
He was going to die, and for nothing. He had not been able to save Klaus or Giselle. His home was being consumed around him. Everything was turning to ash. Tiny particles made their way through the now dry vest he held to his mouth.
Dante spun in circles, looking for a way out—any way out—but there was none.
If his mother had known he would die this way, perhaps she would have given him a different name. Adding to that dark irony, the only part of his person not roasting in the blaze was the scarred skin beneath the mask covering the right half of his face. It seemed the porcelain protected him from more than the shrieks of startled people. If he had breath to spare, he might have laughed.
Until one of the rafters came crashing toward him.
He curled into a ball, though he knew it was futile. Instinct overpowered reason. Clenching his eyes shut, he waited for the impact, the searing heat and pain it was sure to bring.
Instead, he felt someone’s arms wrap around him, their chest pressed against his back as if they were trying to shield him from his fate. The heat that had been baking him vanished. He opened his eyes to see the rafter resting on the floor, somehow occupying the same space as his feet. Flames whose heat he could not feel rose from the wood.
His body was glowing with a soft golden light. He had seen this light the day Heinrich died, emanating from the apparition. Dante’s benefactor gripped him more tightly, pressing her body against his.
He glanced over his shoulder to see the apparition’s face. He could not quite make out her features through the light she exuded, but he knew the deep chestnut of her eyes.
He had died then, and this was the angel sent to take his soul to the afterlife. He would gladly go with her. Perhaps he would see Heinrich again.
She placed her hand on his shoulder, and said, “Trust me.”
Dante did not think he could speak. Instead, he nodded. She helped him rise, then shifted to stand before him, keeping her arms around his chest the entire time. She squeezed him tightly enough that his sore lungs protested.
How could he still feel discomfort when he had moved beyond his body? But more pleasant sensations quickly followed.
She pressed her face against his chest, her cheek smooth upon his skin where his shirt had fallen open. Her hair was as golden as the light surrounding her, stray strands tickling Dante’s chin. She clung to him as if her life depended upon it.
The thought unsettled him somewhat, as did her next words.
“Hold on tight.”