A Gentleman


Photo by Hean Prinsloo on Unsplash

Daisy shifted nervously in her seat. “Grandpapa, are you sure about this?”

Her husband held her hand. “It’s okay. We’re doing the right thing.”

“It’s okay for you, Russ, you didn’t grow up with Grandpapa.”

“He’s not exactly your grandfather, though, is he?” Russ said. “I mean, he’s your great-great-great grandfather. And he’s old enough to know his own mind.”

Daisy looked across at the ghost sitting next to the fire. It was an open fire, hissing softly with the smokeless coal they had to use in this part of the city. Grandpapa had never countenanced changing to central heating. “But it seems so final.”

“I know what I’m doing, girl.” Grandpapa puffed on his ghostly pipe. “But I’ve stayed here long enough.”

“Is it about Mrs Henderson?” Russ asked.

“Russ!” Daisy hissed.

“I’ll have you know that I was always faithful to my wife, your grandmama…”

“Great-great-great grandmother,” Russ whispered to Daisy.

“… but I do admit that when Mrs Henderson moved in next door I was struck by her character.” Grandpapa ignored Russ’s comment. “And, yes, now that she has passed over, it has made me think that perhaps I should go and join my Millie…”

“Or Mrs Henderson” Russ murmured to Daisy.

If you don’t mind.” Grandpapa snorted. “It’s time to join my Millie. I just hope you found someone suitable to take my case.”

“Are you sure you need help, Grandpapa?” Russ asked. “Can you not just, I don’t know, decide?”

Grandpapa shifted awkwardly. “I’ve not had any luck so far.” He admitted. “I may be a special case.” He puffed on his pipe again, enjoying the thought. “But hopefully you have engaged a suitable specialist, one who can manage matters with appropriate dignity.”

“He is the only one we could find,” Daisy said. The thought of the familiar, irritating figure disappearing left her unsettled. “But three separate people said he was very good. All the other people we asked were, well, fakes.”

“And he isn’t asking a fortune, like some of them out there.” Russ added. “If he can’t help us, it will have to be a priest.”

“No priests!” Grandpapa snapped. “I don’t approve of them. The old vicar ran off with his secretary and his replacement cooked the books.”

Daisy and Russ exchanged worried glances. There were plenty of stories about bad priests, but who else could get rid of ghosts? Daisy waved her hand at the table. “Are you sure we need to have this ready for him?”

Grandpapa snorted, “Anyone who can get rid of me will be a man of some courage, a man of discernment, a man of taste and refinement. It won’t be some teddy boy in a silly jacket or one of those punk mohicans. He will be a gentleman.”

Russ looked over the small table set aside for the ‘ghost whisperer’. “I hope he smokes.”

“All gentlemen smoke.” Grandpapa said. “Or they should. A man should be able to choose a good cigar. That’s how you can tell the quality of a gentleman. It may make all the difference in whether he accepts the case or walks away. And have you water for the whisky? I know we have soda, but some of the old guard take water with their whisky.”

Daisy and Russ avoided looking at each other. Grandpapa was becoming more and more out of touch, but Daisy had had the opinionated ghost in the background all her life and Russ had grown to love the old man – more or less. Neither could imagine the house without him. But now that the sprightly and scandalous Mrs Henderson had gone, a spark had gone out of the old spirit and he had become quieter and a little less visible. They jumped as the doorbell echoed through the room.

“Don’t keep him waiting!” Grandpapa said, “Or he may realise we no longer have staff! Go on – answer the door!”

Daisy and Russ raced into the hall and then paused at the door. Daisy looked at Russ. “If we open this door, we won’t be able to stop it.”

“If we don’t open the door, Grandpapa will carry on being miserable.” Russ said, “And he’ll make our lives miserable with it.” He looked at the door as if seeing it for the first time. “But I know what you mean.”

The doorbell rang again. “Open the damn door!” Grandpapa roared from the sitting room.

Daisy swallowed and, despite shaking fingers, opened the door. “Oh!” She looked at the skinny lad in the thin jacket and supermarket jeans and wondered what Grandpapa would say about this.

“Mr and Mrs Smyth? I’m Kane Thelwell. We spoke on the phone about a ghost.” Kane smiled nervously. “May I come in?”

Heavenfire: Interview with JK Allen

Latest from the awesome JK Allen

Not that I’m name dropping, but I was privileged to have an interview with J K Allen whose latest title, Heavenfire, is available for pre-order. I feel very smug.

Welcome, tell us a little bit about yourself and what you write.

Hello! My name is Julia aka JK Allen when I’m writing. I write primarily YA urban fantasy, but do dabble in lots of other genres, including poetry. I actually did my senior thesis in college in poetry and it’s a love of mine. I studied English and Creative Writing in college, and that’s when I decided to become an author. After graduating, I worked on getting published in several anthologies, and then released my debut series of novels, the Angelborn series starting with Angelborn. Now Heavenfire is coming out and I’m so excited to continue the journey of Ginny and Aiden.

I am also the President and Head Editor of Three Furies Press, an indie publishing house that I started with Isa McLaren and Rebekah Jonesy. We are starting out strong, with a full publishing schedule for this year already! I love my job as editor, because I get to get my grubby little paws on a ton of great books before they even come out! And I love helping authors make their stories shine. Check us out at threefuriespress.com!

How long have you been writing?

I have been writing since the day after I learned how to write. I learned how and thought to myself “what now?” Then I realized I could write a story! I wrote a fairy tale, complete with pictures, and showed my sissy proudly. She teased me mercilessly for spelling beautiful like “but”iful, and that’s how my love of editing began.

What inspires you most?

I find that reading and watching movies sparks my imagination most. When I’m not reading enough, I can tell because I get less ideas. As far as my writing style though, what I’m most inspired by lately is a dreamscape tarot deck I got for plotting. I do like to do some planning ahead and know where I am heading before I sit down to create the first draft. This tarot deck gives me great insights into my characters and different scenes. It’s a very intuitive way of looking at your story that really inspires me.

Who is your favorite author and why?

My favorite author is Jane Austen. Her characters are real and wonderful, and she writes about the everyday in such a beautiful and exciting way. If I can write my characters half as well as hers, then I’m very happy.

Who has influenced your writing the most? Is it different than your favorite?

I would say that Austen is my favorite and has influenced my writing the most. My stories are about character first, and I try to glean lessons from her with regular rereading.

Where do you get your ideas?

I get them from the things that inspire me and what if situations. Always ask yourself, “what if?” It leads you to wonderful places.

Do you have a process? What is it like?

I am a reformed pantser (one who flies by the seat of their pants) so I would say I’m a plantser (mix of plotter and pantser) who maybe leans more on the plotting side now. I used to never know where I was going, but then I also never finished anything. I started novel after novel, loving the storylines and characters, and then I would get “writer’s block” because I didn’t know what happened next and set it aside. When I got serious about publishing, I knew I had to rethink my writing process. So I researched different ways to outline and realized there were all sorts and I found the one that worked for me. I also employ scene lists, using index cards to add, subtract, and shuffle around to get the perfect order. Try something new and you may find the perfect process for you!

What’s one piece of advice you would give another author?

Write first, edit later. For me I need to just focus on being creative when I’m writing the first draft. If I put my editor hat on too soon, then I get too analytical and critical, and it kills my creativity. You can also start obsessing on making what you have perfect, instead of just moving forward. As someone said, you are shoveling sand into a box so you can make castles later. Get the draft down, then polish.

What character that you’ve written do you love most?

I really love Ginny from the Angelborn series. She is kind and caring, sticks up for her friends even when she’s scared, and does what is right rather than what is easy. I love writing characters who have the kind of courage found in ordinary people.

What character someone else has written do you love most?

My favorite character (that isn’t an Austen character lol) is Hermione. She is unabashedly who she is and doesn’t change herself to make herself more popular. She is intelligent, passionate, and brave. And definitely relatable.

So Heavenfire is releasing, it’s book two in the series. Tell us more about the Angelborn series and what happens in this new installation.

Ginny Gracehurst thinks she’s a normal teen until she gets a bruise that won’t fade and starts having strange dreams. Turns out she’s half-angel, and a half-demon is after her to bring his plans to life. Angelborn follows Ginny as she discovers who she is and what this new world is as she tries to protect the ones she loves. Heavenfire finds her on a new mission halfway across the world, trying to protect some precious relics from the half-demon who still wants her. Here’s the blurb to Heavenfire.

A divine sword, magic tomes, and uncontrolled power. Can 16-year-old Ginny Gracehurst keep them from an obsessed half-demon?

After retrieving the only thing that could set Jacob’s demon father free, half-angel Ginny has a new mission. She and Aiden are charged with collecting the Eternal Tomes, which teach how to use sigils in the Angelic Tongue.

They are in a race against Jacob and his minions, who can travel anywhere in a matter of seconds. Allowing demonkind to learn those sigils would spell disaster for them all. In order to get what he wants, Jacob needs one more thing besides the Tomes—Ginny herself.

What future projects do you have planned?

Right now I am plotting a new series set in the Angelborn world, but a few generations later. So we have new characters we will follow as things get dangerous once again.

Where can we stalk you online?

Here’s where you can find me!

Instagram: www.instagram.com/hijinkswriter

Facebook: www.facebook.com/hijinkswriter

Twitter: www.twitter.com/hijinkswriter

Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/juliakyong

Website: hijinksblog.wordpress.com

amazon.com/author/jkallen

No Rest for the Wicked: All About Prudence


Phoebe Darqueling, the awesome author of ‘No Rest for the Wicked’ has kindly shared some insights on one of her wonderful characters and a brief taster of her latest novel.

Prudence Thorne started seeing the dead when she was a child. Her brother had no time or patience for the little girl who trailed him like a shadow, so the spirits who drifted into Thorne Manor became her closest friends. Prudence believed the ghosts were a delicious secret for her alone. Then, everything changed.

The ability to see the dead and channel spectral forces didn’t belong only to Prudence, it was a family trait. It didn’t affect all of the Thorne women and it didn’t manifest at the same time, but most of her family line had some kind of ability enhanced by their close connection to the spirit world. Much to her delight, Prudence’s aunt Magda came to live in the Manor and immediately recognized her potential. In no time, they became closer than sisters, closer than mother and daughter. Prudence learned all about her family history and how to expand her potential, and the day that Magda passed peacefully into the afterlife was the loneliest of her entire life.

But there was a ray of hope. For though Prudence never married, her brother had a daughter whom she hoped would connect with her the same way when her powers manifested. She kept a sharp eye on Vi and sent her ghost companions into her path in the hopes that her niece would show some inkling of power. But even though the energy that pulsed off of the child was the stronger than anything Prudence had ever felt, the little girl either never saw the dead or refused to admit the truth of her eyes. The feeling of betrayal caused a deep, painful schism between the two, and when Vi was old enough to strike out on her own, she leaped at the chance, leaving Prudence alone and bitter, rattling around an empty mansion.

Then, everything changed again. After a long absence, Vi and some companions arrived on the doorstep of her ancestral home…

Prudence Thorne

From No Rest for the Wicked by Phoebe Darqueling

The room was so quiet, even the ticking of the grandfather clock reached their ears. Every tiny scrape of a utensil or creak of a floorboard under the butler’s foot echoed all the way to the tall ceilings of the dining room. A golden chandelier encrusted with crystals and dust in equal measure hung over the center of the table. A huge, Venetian mirror reflected the stoical scene from over an ornate mantel; a tall woman, with gray hair cropped close to her skull, scowled at

one end of a long wooden table, while two other women sat in awkward silence staring at the other.

Even though it had been almost a decade since Vi had last seen the room, nothing had changed. The same family portraits kept watch from the bloody red walls, the same servant still served the food, though his age had slowed his movements. She moved the elegant meal around her plate with her fork as she thought about George enjoying what would probably be plain but delicious fare in the cozy surroundings of the kitchen alongside the old cook. She’d never wanted to trade places with a child so much in her life.

Bonnie started to speak, but Vi quieted her with a shake of her head and nervous glance to the woman at the far end of the long table. Her friend looked from the matriarch’s stern and quiet visage and back, mouthing, “Why not?”

Vi returned a frustrated but silent, “Just don’t.”

The other woman rolled her eyes. “Miss Prudence—”

A vehement, short shush interrupted her from the corner. When she searched for the source, Bonnie found the ancient butler bringing a quivering finger to his lips.

The little brunette’s face screwed up in defiance and she continued. “Thank you ever so much for welcoming us into your home.” Prudence didn’t even lift her eyes from her plate, her knife squeaking as she cut off another tiny piece of pork chop and brought it to her lips. Bonnie raised her voice and tried again. “You have a lovely home, Miss Prudence.”

The room held its breath as the older woman picked up a linen napkin and dabbed at the corner of her mouth. Prudence gently set down her fork and leveled her razor-sharp, green eyes at her niece. “Viola,” she said, voice soft but her tone wrought with iron.

Vi swallowed hard. “Yes, ma’am.”

“You know how I feel about talking during mealtimes.”

I didn’t say anything.”

“I’m sorry,” Bonnie cried, blood rushing to her cheeks. “I didn’t know.”

Prudence waved away her concern with a skeletal hand, but continued to glare at Vi. “No. Of course you didn’t. Because my wayward niece never thought to inform you.”

Vi began to protest, then slumped back in a sulk. “No, ma’am.”

“And why do we do that?”

She mumbled, “Because silence is golden.”

“Indeed,” her aunt replied. The barest hint of a smile crossed her lips, then they returned to a straight line. “I rather thought you’d taken that particular lesson to heart. All I’ve had from you is silence.” She balled up her napkin and threw it onto her half-eaten meal. “That will be all, August. I’ve lost my concentration completely. Clear the dishes.”

The grifter slanted protectively over her plate. “I’m not finished.”

“Very well.” Prudence let out a long-suffering sigh at the small act of defiance. “Carry on. I suppose we’ll all simply have to wait for you.” The butler shuffled over and cleared away his mistress’ plate and utensils while she stared at her former ward over steepled fingers. When August went to Bonnie’s place, she allowed him to take away her unfinished dinner, her

eyes flicking uneasily from one woman to the other. With a saccharine smile, Vi cut a tiny piece of potato and placed it delicately into her mouth with a theatrical ‘mmm.’

Prudence clucked her tongue, then turned to her other dinner companion and gestured widely. “You’re right. It is a lovely home.”

Bonnie let out a squeak, withering under the unexpected turn of the woman’s granite gaze. She recovered her aplomb, replying. “Yes, er… has it been in the family long?”

“There’s been a Thorne in this house since it was built,” Prudence replied proudly. “Though I don’t know how much longer that will be true. I thought to leave it to her when I pass, but Viola seems to have made her home…elsewhere.”

“You’re going to leave me the house?” Vi exclaimed, choking on her half-chewed bite.

“This is why we don’t talk and eat,” her aunt scolded, then returned her attention to Bonnie. “So, tell me. How do you two know each other?”

Her friend shot Vi another look, uncertain of how to proceed but unwilling to be the one to spill the secret. “It’s quite a long story…” she hedged.

“I see,” Prudence replied coldly. “And you believe I am somehow unequipped to listen to a long story?”

“Well, I—” Bonnie stuttered.

Vi re-entered the conversation. “Leave her alone. You’re angry with me, not her.”

“Do I sound angry?” the older woman replied with an infuriating lack of emotion. “I’m not the one raising my voice,” she pointed out.

“You never sound angry,” her niece replied. “But that doesn’t mean you aren’t. I know you too well to believe you aren’t furious with me right now.”

“Are you quite finished yet?” Prudence sighed. “We could adjourn to the study like civilized people if you would surrender your plate.”

The corner of Vi’s eye twitched, but she pushed away the remains of her supper. As August rounded the table, he stopped to whisper something in his mistress’ ear.

“Apparently, I already have a visitor waiting for me in the study. If you’ll excuse me for a moment, I’ll see to what he wants.”

The butler assisted Prudence with her chair as she rose, but Vi’s next words stopped her halfway through the motion. “He’s with me.”

Her aunt regarded her skeptically. “I highly doubt we’re talking about the same… person.” She brushed at non-existent wrinkles and straightened her cuffs before stepping away from the table.

“The ghost?” Vi asked, savoring the moment. Her heavy heart lifted a little as she watched her aunt stop dead, confusion twisting her features. With a smile, Vi continued lightly. “Yes, Peter is my guest, but he preferred to take a nice stroll rather than arrive with us in the carriage.”

Prudence lifted her chin and glowered down her aquiline nose at her niece, but she couldn’t keep the curiosity, and perhaps even pride, out of the creases of her stately face. She gestured at the study door. “Come along,” she said, her eyes momentarily flashing with satisfaction. “And tell me everything.”


Walk in the Park


Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

As first dates went, it hadn’t been too bad so far. I had met him at the local coffee shop and we had drunk a few lattes. He looked like his online profile, which was something, and the conversation had been light. He was studying computers and something that I didn’t catch or really understand and getting some side hustles with web design on the side. We shared a love of Doctor Who, agreed to disagree on Star Trek and I felt more relaxed with him than I had in a long time. I should have known it was too good to be true.

“Let me walk you home.” Ryan said. “It’s a shame to end the conversation. I feel like I could talk with you for hours.”

“I’m good.” I said. “And if you walk me home and we get talking there then I won’t get to bed early enough and I have work tomorrow.”

“Come on, let me walk you at least part of the way.” Ryan said. “Don’t pretend we haven’t had a marvellous time.”

“It’s been a great evening.” I said, “And I hope we have another one like it, but I do need to get up tomorrow.” What with one thing and another I would be lucky to get even a couple of hours sleep before work, even if he didn’t come in.

“Spoilsport.” He smiled at me and I smiled back. “Okay, let me walk you some of the way back. I promise I won’t go all the way.”

“That sounds like such a cheesy line!” I shook my head. I either gave in or he made a scene here. “But you said you lived over the other side of the city. Why don’t we walk as far as the subway terminus? Then you can get the subway back and I will be near home.”

“You aren’t that near to the subway terminus.” Ryan sounded a little sulky.

“Someone’s done their research.” I said. “But we can hang out together until you get on the subway, so we have a little more time.”

Ryan smiled. “I know you haven’t lived in this part of the city long, but I grew up around here. I know a great short cut, through the old park.”

“Isn’t that supposed to be haunted?” I asked. “I mean, I was warned about going into the old park after dark as it was dangerous.”

“Nobody believes in ghosts.” Ryan said, “And I can protect you.”

I looked at him thoughtfully. He was in good shape, but he didn’t look like he could take on a pack of muggers. What was worse, if we cut through the abandoned park, we would have to go past my home to get to the terminus. It looked like Ryan could be a problem. “I’d rather stay in public. You know all the advice that they give, about online dating, to stay in public for the first few dates and to be really careful who you give your details to? Perhaps I should just get an uber home.”

Ryan put a hand on my shoulder. Somehow it felt heavier than it should. “Please, we are having such a good time. Let’s just walk for a little while, carry on connecting and you can wait with me at the subway station.”

“And we can go past the supermarket.”

“Come on! Where’s your sense of adventure. There is nothing wrong with the park. It’s just neglected, that’s all.”

“It will be dark.” I said.

“It will be romantic.” Ryan held my hand and smiled at me. I felt incredibly uneasy.

The old park had effectively been abandoned by the council. Once it had been carefully landscaped but now it was an overgrown of tangled bushes and trees with some worn tracks through the dense growth. It was dimly lit even in daylight. We walked through the rusted gates in the dark and away from the street lights and we were suddenly in an eerie dark. I dug a mini torch out of my handbag.

“You’re prepared.” Ryan said. “I admit, it’s darker than I was expecting, but I thought you would use your phone.”

“Wouldn’t that run the battery down really quickly?” I asked as I found a path. “Is this the way?”

“I think we need to go down here.” Ryan said, pointing to a different path.

“No, this way will get us through the park quicker and nearer the subway.” I insisted pointing my torch.

“But this way will be more fun, I promise.” Ryan said.

He set off ahead of me, and I sighed and followed. The park was not safe after dark just because it was so overgrown and badly lit. If he fell, he could hurt himself badly and not be easily found. I decided that I would see him off at the subway and then send him a ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ text. “Hang on!” I shouted after him.

“The park is supposed to be haunted, you know.” Ryan said as I scrambled after him. “They say that you can see ghosts here and that vampires and werewolves come here to meet.” Ryan looked around as much of the park as he could see in the small beam from my torch. “It’s a shame it isn’t a full moon.”

“Vampires and werewolves, seriously?” I said, as I hurried after him. “We’ve left the path.”

“I grew up here, remember?” Ryan turned and smiled in the glow of the torch. “I know all the tracks, like this one here.” We stumbled out onto a slightly wider path that was heading downward towards the neglected artificial lake.

“I need to get home and you need to make sure you get to the subway in time for the last train.” I said. “This is silly.”

Ryan looked around. “I’m just trying to get my bearings. Does your phone have GPS?”

“I thought you knew this place?” I was trying to keep calm. I really didn’t want to have a scene. “Come on, lets get out of here.”

“Seriously, which way is North?”

I ignored his hand open for my phone and pulled up the map function myself. “It’s that way, and if we follow this path, we’ll come out almost next to the subway. And you won’t miss your…” I was interrupted as I turned to point to a path. Ryan snatched my phone out of my hand and threw it into the bushes. I whirled around to glare at him. “What are you doing?”

“It’s kind of exciting, isn’t it?” Ryan said, in a low voice, running his hand over my arm. “You are in the middle of the haunted park, in the dark, possibly surrounded by werewolves, and with a handsome stranger. Anything could happen. And you have no way to call for help.” He tried to pull me towards him for a kiss, but I struggled free.

“Okay, that’s it. This date is over, lose my number.” I shone my pitiful torch where I thought my phone landed.

“I don’t think you understand.” Ryan said. “You are alone, in the dark, with a stranger. You are in no position to tell me what to do. I’m in charge.” He moved a little closer. “I could even be a werewolf. That would be something, wouldn’t it, to be rescued by a werewolf.”

I swore at him and headed to where I thought I saw a glint of grey. “What are you going to do? Leave me for the ghosts. Leave me alone.”

“Or what?” Ryan was smirking as he followed me. “There are no werewolves around to rescue you.” He pushed his hand into my hair and pulled my head back. “We are going to have a nice time here, and then we are going back to your place and by the morning you will see that I am the best thing that could happen to you. No werewolves needed.”

“You’re right.” I snarled, my fangs lengthening as I grabbed his arm and twisted until he was on his knees, screaming. “No werewolves needed at all.”

Family Jewels


Photo by Xuan Nguyen on Unsplash

“Can you see anyone?” Justin asked. He stood at the window, tension in every line of him.

“One moment, Mr Birstall.” Kane tried to concentrate on the sobbing ghost in front of him. “Calm down and just try and…” You couldn’t tell a ghost to take a breath. “Just take it easy.”

“All my life I’ve heard the story of the family jewels.” Justin said. “I’ve waited my whole life to buy back my family home.”

Kane nodded distractedly as the ghost slowly straightened up and looked at his sister’s great grandson. “That’s better. Now, this is Justin, and he wants to know what happened to his great grandmother’s jewellery.”

Justin looked between Kane and the gap that Kane was apparently speaking to. “Dad said that the jewellery wasn’t much, but it would be great to be sort of reconciled with that, to be part of the family.”

“I never thought she would leave.” The ghost started sobbing again. “I thought if I forbade her to marry then we would be together and comfortable. But she wanted to go to London with this clerk.”

Kane nodded politely. “I’m sure you missed your sister…”

“I missed her so much. How could I know that I would drive her away.” The ghost pulled out a spectral handkerchief. “I mean, if I had realised perhaps I would have at least had letters.” The ghost looked between Kane and Justin. “I have to know – did she die in poverty? Did she die in pain? Did she have a family? I’ve worried about it for so many years, I can’t rest.”

Kane looked at Justin. “Your great-grandmother, was she happy?”

Justin smiled. “I grew up with stories about her life. She loved the theatre, was devoted to my great-grandfather – she was so proud of him. She was always well dressed, and had all the latest fashions, especially when she went to the big dinners and galas.”

“What do you mean, big dinners?” The ghost forgot to sob into his handkerchief and stared at Justin.

“The ghost is surprised your great-grandmother went to big dinners.” Kane said, a little timidly. A skinny kid just out of local authority care shouldn’t ask questions of a high flyer in the City.

Justin didn’t take offence. “My great-grandmother ran off with my great-grandfather to the horror of all their families. But they settled in London, he went back to his father’s firm and they were very happy. Once he took over, there were shareholders’ dinners and charity events with the Lord Mayor.” He smiled. “Granny used to tell us stories about how they met with royalty and all sorts.” He sighed “But she used to whisper to Granny that all the fancy necklaces she had didn’t have the same feel as the locket her brother gave her and that she left behind.” He shook his head. “That’s why I’m here. One last chance.” He sighed. “Who am I kidding? That locket was probably sold or thrown long ago.”

“How dare you, sir!” The ghost stood, indignant. “The very thought that I would do something like that! Of course, I didn’t want the maids finding it and perhaps sending it on to London, so I hid it.” He turned to Kane. “Boy, you can fetch it for me.”

“What?” Kane said, bewildered. “I mean, what do you mean? Where is it?”

“I put it in the kitchen.” The ghost said. “No-one would think to look in the kitchen for something I hid. I never went there as an adult.” He shook his head. “Everyone forgot that I grew up in this house. I know every nook and cranny. Come on, lad, smarten up.”

Kane followed the ghost out of the empty study and down the echoing, uncarpeted hall and into the kitchen. Justin trailed after him.

“Where are you going?”

“I’m following the ghost, Mr Birstall.”

“What ghost?” Justin said. “I can’t see anything. Don’t you have to have a seance and call on them or something.”

As Kane walked into the kitchen, he wondered what it would be like to have to ask a ghost to come instead of trying to get them to shut up and leave him alone. “I’m getting a message.” He said.

“Hmph, a message.” The ghost snorted. “Anyone would think you were some sort of spiritist. Come over here, lad, and put your hand up the chimney, quick as you like.”

Kane looked at the soot-encrusted mantle and took off his jacket. “Whereabouts up the chimney?” He asked doubtfully, rolling up his sleeves.

“What?” Justin asked.

Kane ignored him and, following the ghost’s instructions, slid his hand behind the mantle. “The ghost, your great-great-uncle, would like to know if his sister was happy, and how she died.” The soot felt unpleasantly damp and a little slimy.

What?” Justin asked. He stared at Kane and then shrugged. “Everyone said she had a happy heart. She died in the Blitz, direct hit on the house.”

“She wouldn’t have suffered.” The ghost said quietly. “And she was happy.” He sighed. “Try a bit further left, boy.”

Kane looked down at the soot streaking his newest jeans and trainers. “Are you sure? Hang on…” His fingers found a loose stone and he wiggled it a little before he managed to prise it out. He set the stone carefully down on the hearth and tentatively reached in. “I think this is it.”

Justin took the small tin box from Kane, regardless of the soot falling on his bespoke suit and, after a struggle, opened it up. He swallowed and tipped the contents onto the dusty windowsill. “Great-grandmother’s locket.” He pushed aside the discoloured pearls and the garnet necklace and pulled out a simple locket, still faintly gleaming under the dust.

“She didn’t die poor, she died happy.” The ghost sighed as he started to fade and pass over. “I didn’t drive her to poverty. She was happy.”

Kane watched the ghost go home and turned to Justin. “The ghost has gone, Mr Birstall. I don’t think that there’s anything else.”

“Hmm?” Justin was staring at the picture in the locket. “Sorry, I was caught up with this.” He showed the facing pictures to Kane. “My great-grandmother and her brother. I have a similar picture of her at home, look.” He pulled out his phone and scrolled through to show Kane the picture of the same laughing young woman that was in the locket.

Kane looked at the faded photographs and smiled politely as he tried to brush the soot off his jeans. “So, I’ll see myself out.”

Justin came back to the present. “I’ll give you a lift to the station.” He handed Kane an envelope. “Agreed fee.” He added a second envelope. “And the bonus for finding the locket.” The smile on his face grew. “The family jewels.”

Book Review: The Omega Prize by Leann Ryans

This is erotic fiction. I practically never read erotic fiction and I blush very easily. I wasn’t sure what to expect.

The Omega Prize is a science fiction story set in a world where there are dominants and submissives, alphas and omegas, and many are ruled by their pheromones. The story is set on a rough and ready space station with the heroine, Brie, trying to hide her nature as she works as a bartender. The hero, Zander, spots her true nature and, well, I don’t want to give too many spoilers.

I usually avoid erotica as there is often more biology than story. The Omega Prize is definitely a story – a well written story with real characters. It is relatively short, but there is a journey that the characters make and it’s an interesting journey.

I found the dialogue crisp and believable, and I enjoyed the description of the settings, with a great flavour of the darker scenes of sci fi movies. I am not sure how qualified I am to comment on the quality of the erotica, but I found it, well, erotic. It wasn’t mechanistic but had a wonderful, sensual, feline feel to it.

Now for something surprising. Alongside with a great setting, crisp dialogue, sensual scenes and three dimensional characters, there are some really excellent descriptions of hand to hand combat. It is great to see such a vivid description of a fight. Again, I don’t want to put too much in, but the combat, the passion and the characters are all legitimate parts of the story. I loved it

Another in the series is promised, and I am looking forward to it.