Harvest Web

Spiders aren't the only creatures weaving dangerous webs...

Overall, summer was good. Killian and I are happy, I love my job, and I've settled nicely back into Moonshadow Bay. But once I decide to renovate the house, all that happy-happy joy-joy comes to a screeching halt.

The workmen uncover a hidden door that I had long forgotten about. Obviously, my parents boarded it up for a reason, and I find out why all too quickly as a poltergeist takes up residence. A poltergeist who turns out to be a dangerous ghost. As I attempt to cope with my astral visitor, a new curve ball enters the field--a skeleton shows up from my parents' past--literally!

Swamped by ghostly waters on the home front, work also takes a deadly turn. Our new client at Conjure Ink is killed by the Whatcom County Devil, a deadly urban legend come to life. And now--the Devil seems to have his eye on me! If I manage to survive ghosts and ghouls and devils (oh my!), I'm going to need one hell of a vacation.

 

Reading Order of the Series:

 

1. Starlight Web: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
2. Midnight Web: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
3. Conjure Web: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
4. Harvest Web: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel
5. Shadow Web: A Paranormal Women's Fiction Novel (forthcoming)

Excerpt:

Chapter 1

I brushed a stray leaf out of my hair and stood up to stretch. I had been bent over for the past half hour and my lower back was burning.

“That’s what you get for deciding to grow a vegetable garden,” I muttered.

I was harvesting the last of the tomatoes and the final crop of cucumbers from my first attempt at a garden. A row of lettuce was wilting under the autumn rains that had finally come in, but I considered just turning it under. It wasn’t that I didn’t like lettuce, but I had been eating salad every day during the summer, I was tired of it, and I didn’t feel the least bit healthier. Not to mention, the rains that had come early had practically pounded it into the ground. I was lucky the tomatoes and cucumbers were still in good shape. But this would be the last crop.

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I paused, pivoting my gaze to the Mystic Wood. The trees felt volatile today—I could sense their reluctance toward sharing their space with humans. I wasn’t sure where the sudden anger had flared from, but for some reason, the forest that abutted the back of my yard had been grizzled lately. That was the best way I could put it.

The woodland was filled with magical creatures, not all of whom were friendly. In fact, very few of those I had met so far seemed to care for humankind—or witchblood, for that matter. The forest itself was a hive mind, forming an entity stronger and bigger than the mere flora and fauna that made up its body. There was some sort of design behind the watchful sentinels—the massive cedars and firs that made up most of the Mystic Wood. And the past week or so, whatever intelligence lurking within the wood hadn’t been happy.

As I stretched my arms wide and yawned, I caught sight of an owl sitting in one of the trees near my garden. It gazed at me for a moment and I stared back at it. Then, with a soft hoot, it took wing and flew off. As it left, a rush of feeling exposed and vulnerable washed over me. Knowing better than to just brush it off, I picked up my basket of produce and headed for the gate leading to Killian’s house, hoping that whatever was wrong would pass.

***

I set the basket of tomatoes and cucumbers on the counter, and glanced at the clock. One p.m. I flipped on the espresso machine and made myself a mocha as I ticked off the box next to “Pick veggies” on my to-do list. I had taken the week off from work so I could have plenty of time to move back into my house.

Xi landed on the counter and rubbed against me, letting out a purp that was so loud that she snorted, surprising herself. The tortie blinked, looking around, before she jumped down and leisurely crossed the kitchen to nosh on some kibble. Klaus, her gorgeous gray brother, was asleep in the living room, curled up in Killian’s leather recliner. By now, the kittens were ten months old. While Xi was still relatively lithe, Klaus was beefing up to be a big boy.

I carried my mocha into the living room and curled up on the sofa. Killian’s house was comfortable, in some ways more than mine, but it wasn’t my home, and I felt disconcerted staying here while he was gone. We had been together for nine months and we were in a comfortable place, but I had gotten used to living on my own again and I wasn’t ready to share my space with anybody else—not on an everyday basis.

As I set my mug down, my phone rang. I glanced at the caller ID—it was the contractor.

“Hello?”

“Ms. Jaxson?” Even though he knew my voice, Jim Lark always asked if it was me.

“Yes, Jim, this is January. What’s up? How are things going at my house?” I purposely kept away from the house because when I hovered, the workers slowed down. I had forced myself to stay away the entire past two weeks.

“We’re done. If you’d like to come over for a walk-through, I can show you around and see if there’s anything we missed. The city inspector has been in, and approved all the new plumbing and wiring, so I have those documents here for you to look at.”

My heart skipped a beat and a smile spread across my face. “Jim, those are wonderful words to hear. I’ll be over in ten minutes. Give me a moment to change. I was out in the garden and I’m a little grubby.” Before he could sputter out an apology—the man was a chronic apologizer, and even if you paid him a compliment he found a way to turn it into a complaint—I hung up and scooped up Xi in my arms.

“We can go home today! Jim’s crew is done, Xi! I’m going to have the en suite of my dreams, and the kitchen will be new, and the house will feel a lot more open!” Ignoring the knots in my back, I jumped up and danced her around the room.

Xi gave me a haughty look, then playfully swatted at my nose. I kissed her on the forehead and carried her into the bedroom with me, setting her on the bed. I poked through the closet for a clean pair of jeans and a V-neck sweater. As I dressed, it occurred to me that I needed to buy some new clothes. I had been on the edge of a size fourteen when I first moved back to Moonshadow Bay, but leaving Ellison had freed me to actually eat something and not burn it off through nervous stress. I was starting to push close to a size sixteen now. I didn’t really care too much, as long as I put the brakes on somewhere, but I hated wearing clothes that were too tight for me, and the jeans I changed into were close to not zipping. The last thing I needed or wanted was a camel toe.

I glanced out the window. It was raining steadily again, but since I just had to run next door, I ignored my coat and grabbed my purse and checkbook. Making sure I had my keys, I dashed out the door and down the walkway toward the fence that led to my backyard. Another glance at the Mystic Wood told me I hadn’t been imagining things—there were some agitated spirits hanging out in the forest. I could feel them all the way up here. Turning my attention to my house, I pulled out my keys and raced up the steps to the porch, feeling like a little kid who just found out they were bound for Disneyland.

***

Jim was waiting in my kitchen. He was a short man, but he had a huge spirit, and he beamed as I peeked in the door.

“Welcome home, January.”

I took a deep breath and slid through the door, looking around. It was hard to know what to look at first. The counters gleamed. I’d decided to leave the white quartz counters and the deep espresso–stained cabinets, but Jim had spruced them up. The biggest change, though, was in the elimination of the wall that had originally separated the kitchen from the hall closet. The hall closet was gone and the kitchen extended into an open dining area, which merged into the living room.

Jim had also changed the position of the front door, moving it to the left side of the living room instead of far right. It meant walking a few more feet from the driveway to enter the house, but new side steps up to the front porch eliminated walking through the rain and mud. The front sidewalk now curved left, leading to the new entrance.

I had also asked Jim to remove the door to the office—which was on the left—and replace it with a wide archway, which opened the flow of the house even more. Given we’d had to work within the house’s original footprint, there really wasn’t more space, but it was utilized so well that it felt much bigger. The walls were smooth and freshly painted in the colors of my choice. Everything looked and felt so surreal.

“I can’t believe what you managed to do with the house,” I said, looking around. I opened the door to the powder room to see he’d updated the fixtures and paint.

“Let’s head upstairs,” he said.

I followed him up the stairs and eagerly opened the door to my new en suite. It was perfect. He had stolen some unused storage space behind my bedroom to enlarge the closet into a full walk-in. The bathroom had been refreshed, with new fixtures. The walk-in shower was larger, and now tiled with pale marble to match the countertop. He had installed new flooring and painted the walls, as well.

“I love the new closet, and the bathroom looks good,” I said. “You did a great job. I love all the changes. Thank you. Are we good to go? Can I move my furniture back in?”

Jim nodded. “Yes, it’s all done. But I found something while I was working on the gas fireplace in the library. You’d better come look.”

He led me back downstairs to the library, which had been left alone except for the new fireplace. “When we broke through the wall to install the fireplace, I found this.” He led me to one side of the new fireplace, where a section of the wall was missing. In its place was a door.

I stared at it for a moment. Had there been a door there when I lived at home? I strained my memory, trying to recall. Then, something clicked and I snapped my fingers.

“I remember now! My mother told me this was a storage closet but she never let me go in it. I think they always kept it locked. I had totally forgotten about it, so I never noticed the door was missing.”

He shook his head. “Well, for some reason your parents walled it up. I’m surprised you didn’t notice.”

“It’s been a long time since I lived here, and mostly, I’ve just been trying to sort out my new life,” I said, reaching for the door handle.

“Don’t bother. It’s locked and I don’t have a key. I didn’t want to try to bust it open without your permission.” One thing about Jim, he was as trustworthy as they came. Which was why I was comfortable with him in my house when I wasn’t here.

“I probably have the key—I have both my mother’s and father’s key rings. The key has to be on one of them.” I glanced at the door again, frowning. I couldn’t believe that I had forgotten the storage closet. Which brought up thoughts of the attic. “I forgot to ask. What about the attic?”

“We replaced the flooring and rewired the room so that you have internet access up there, and also so that you have better lighting. I beefed up the insulation to help during winter. I’m sorry that I can’t give you a permanent staircase—you’d have to lose most of your hallway space and that would be against code, but I made it easier for you to pull the ladder down.”

We headed back upstairs where he showed me how to use the new retractable ladder leading up to the attic. All I had to do was press a button and the ceiling panel retracted automatically. With the simple grabber extension, I only had to lightly tug on the ladder and it unfolded, clicking into place.

“That’s so much easier,” I said, clapping. “No more standing on a chair, trying to push open that panel. Then I just press the button again when I’m done?”

“First flip the switch on the back of the stairs and then stand back,” he said.

I found the switch and flipped it. The stairs folded inward and rose back up by themselves. Once they locked into place, I pressed the button and the now-retractable panel on the ceiling closed.

“This is perfect,” I said. “Jim, you’re a genius.” I nodded toward the stairs. “Shall we go down and I’ll write you a check for the balance?”

“Sure. In this economy, I’m just grateful for the work.” He stood back, letting me go first, and then followed me down to the kitchen, where I hopped up to sit on the counter while I wrote out his check for the balance of the work. The remodeling had eaten up a good chunk of my savings, but the house was perfect now, and I couldn’t wait to show Killian and Ari.

After Jim left, I walked around the kitchen, running my hands over the counters and marveling at the way the new footprint made everything feel so much larger. Then, eager to move my things back over, I put in a call to Killian to tell him I was ready to move back home.

***

So, I’m January Jaxson and I live in Moonshadow Bay, Washington. It’s a quirky little town that doesn’t care much for outsiders, unless it decides you belong to it. At that point, Moonshadow Bay beckons you in, and once it has you, it doesn’t let go. The town isn’t far from Bellingham, a university town that overlooks the Salish Sea and the Strait of Juan de Fuca. A lot of peculiar folk live here, and a lot of the non-living make this their home as well.

I work for Conjure Ink, a paranormal investigations agency and website. We look into hauntings, urban legends, and all those eerie, bump-in-the-night events that are designed to scare the living and make them think twice about picnics in the graveyard and investigating old houses that have been left to rot and ruin.

Right before I turned forty-one years old back in January (yes, my parents named me for the month I was born in), I moved back to Moonshadow Bay after an acrimonious divorce from my sleazeball of an ex. He stole the business that I helped to build, he made my life hell, cheated on me, and then burned down the building our arts magazine was in.

Unfortunately, he was now living in Bellingham, not ten miles away, with his parents. Apparently, bad behavior and inadvertent arson gets you a bad rap in the elite arts community. Trouble was, he took me down with him, doing his best to destroy my reputation among our mutual friends.

Ellison couldn’t stand the fact that I was a witch—born to the magic as much as I was born to write—and even though he had known full well about my powers before we married, he had shredded my self-confidence and self-assurance. I was in the process of rebuilding my life, but I’d never forgive him.

My parents died a little over a year ago. So, though the wounds were still fresh, I had moved back to take up life in the home that had housed my childhood. My best friend Ari and I had reunited, and I had branched out and met new people. Now I had a job I loved, a house that was freshly remodeled, and a boyfriend I hadn’t expected—but whom I was grateful for. I even had two cats, and my life seemed picture-perfect in so many ways. Unfortunately, pictures only show a moment, frozen in time.

***

“It’s gorgeous.” I sprawled on Killian’s bed and punched the speaker button on my phone.

The headboard and footboard were made of heavy oak, the bedroom walls were olive drab, and the heavy velvet draperies blocked out the light. I loved being around him, but our tastes didn’t even begin to meet in the middle on decorating.

My bedroom was newly painted a pale silver-gray with navy trim and curtains. I wasn’t a sun bunny, I loved the gloom and clouds of the Pacific Northwest, but when I thought about it, Killian’s house felt perpetually cloaked in shadow.

Ari giggled. “I can hardly wait to see it. Do you need some help moving your furniture back in?”

“Of course,” I said, laughing. “All help is appreciated.” I had stored all my furniture in a large moving storage container, and left it sitting in my driveway. Instead of having them come truck it to a new home, I had just rented it for the month it took Jim’s company to finish all of the renovations. “Can you swing by tonight? I’d at least like to get started.”

“I can do one better—how about this afternoon? My last appointment is at two. And you and I don’t have any clients right now.”

Ari—short for Arianrhod—was my best friend from my youth. She was a hairdresser, and we had opened a side business of reading tarot cards and doing psychic house cleanings. We weren’t getting many calls, but then again, it was a side gig for both of us and that was perfectly fine.

“Once I get settled back in the house, we can start drumming up clients again.” I paused as a text message came in. When I saw who it was from, I let out a groan. “Fucking hell. Ellison just texted me.”

“What does the prick want now?” Ari hated Ellison. During my marriage, she and I had still hung out together when we could, but the fact that I lived in Seattle—a good ninety-minute drive away—and the fact that Ellison had disliked her—made it hard to keep the friendship going. I chalked his disdain up to the facts that she was a witch like me, and she was also gay.

I skimmed the massive text. “Why can’t he figure out how to use email? I swear…”

The text ran on and on, finally concluding: january, you need to help me out. i can’t stand living with my parents and you have that big house going to waste there with just you in it. let me come stay with you. i think we made a mistake. i’d like to try again. i know we could make things work out this time, and i’ll help you lose some of that blubber and you can help me start up the business again. i’m so broke i can’t even buy a decent bottle of wine.

“Oh for fuck’s sake. The man’s so narcissistic he can’t utter anything except the words ‘me me me’…he’s begging me to take him back, and he’ll help me lose some of my ‘blubber.’ ” I wanted to throw my phone at the wall but stopped myself. I had done that last month and broken a brand-new phone. I couldn’t afford to keep throwing tantrums every time I had to deal with Ellison.

Ari paused—I could hear the hesitation without her saying a word.

“What is it?”

“I’m not sure whether to tell you.”

“Quit gnawing on the inside of your cheek—I know you’re doing that, you always do and then you complain about sores. If you know something, spill it. You know how I hate secrets.”

She inhaled sharply. “All right, but I’d rather tell you in person.”

“Just rip off the bandage.”

“Ellison tried to hit on me. It was about ten years ago, at a Christmas party you threw?” Ari sighed. “I told you I wasn’t sure whether I should tell you or not.”

I froze. I had never known about this.

Ari continued. “That’s the reason I stopped coming to visit.”

“What the hell?” I caught a sharp breath, wincing at the unexpected pain in my heart. Even though I was over him, it still hurt to hear that he was cheating on me—or at least trying to—long before we broke up.

“I told him to fuck off, that I’m gay and I’d brain him if he touched me. Then I told him I’d kick him in the balls if he hurt you.”

I could easily imagine Ari not only threatening him, but acting on those threats if she needed to. “What did he say?”

“He warned me to quit coming around so much. I didn’t want him to take his anger at me out on you. I decided he was probably just drunk and acting like an idiot.”

I thought back to that party. I knew the exact one she was talking about. We had spent every spare dollar on the shindig to impress his friends—or rather, the people he wanted to be friends with. Ellison had always been a social climber, but he didn’t have much luck. He wasn’t charming, his sarcasm always won out, and only the size of our bank account caught the attention of the women he pursued, I found out much too late. Over the years, we—mostly me—had built the magazine into a thriving concern in the Seattle arts community and eventually it began to make fairly decent money, thanks to my management.

“That was the night you insisted on driving home during the snowstorm, wasn’t it? I remember being so worried you’d have an accident.”

“Yeah, that’s the one. But I didn’t know what else to do. Ellison was really pushy and he grabbed my ass and tried to feel up my boobs. Until I told him I was gay, he kept muttering how he wanted to fuck me up the ass. My whole point in telling you this now is: do not take that man back again, regardless of what sob story he plays on you. Don’t feel sorry for him. He’s a fucked-up nutjob and I’d hate to see him hurt you again.”

I let out a sigh. “Thank you for telling me. That’s the point when things really started to decline, though I have to admit, they were never really good between us. But something shifted that night and I never could figure out what.” I paused, then added, “I’m sorry. I’m sorry that jackass put the make on you.”

“It’s not your place to apologize. But I just never want you to be swayed by him again.”

I shifted, rolling over on my back. “Trust me, it’s not going to happen. I still have the restraining order from when he tried to hit me. I thought Killian was going to kill him.” I paused, then said, “Let’s change the subject. I picked the last of the tomatoes and cucumbers this morning. You want some cukes to take home?” I could eat tomatoes by the bushel, but cucumbers were fine as an addition to meals, not as the main course.

“If you don’t want them. Meagan loves them.” Meagan was Ari’s fiancée. They had planned for a summer wedding, but that got shot to hell.

“I’ll save several for you. I’ll see you around two-thirty?”

“I’ll be there, with gloves and weight belt on,” Ari said, laughing. “Meanwhile, tell Ellison to go stuff himself in the toilet.”

I snorted as I ended the call. Ari was five-two, barely a size 2, and one of the scariest bad-asses I’d ever met. She had no problem telling people just what they could do with themselves and their bigoted ideas.

I stared at Ellison’s text for a moment, then feeling Ari’s spirit urging me on, texted back the only thing I could think of. your dick’s too small and you’re always going to be a leech. go find another sugar mama to mooch off of, you loser. And with that, I blocked him—again—and decided to get in a short nap before it was time to move.

COLLAPSE
Reviews:Jennifer on FunkNFiction.com wrote:

"Yasmine Galenorn has written some of my favorite characters, and created some of my favorite paranormal worlds. No matter which series I'm reading (and there are many to choose from), I know I'm going to get something interesting, often funny, and always captivating."


Playlist for Harvest Web

A.J. Roach: Devil May Dance
Air: Napalm Love
Android Lust: Here & Now
Arch Leaves: Nowhere To Go
The Black Angels: Currency; You On The Run; Vikings; Holland; Don’t Play With Guns; Always Maybe
Black Mountain: Queens Will Play
Black Pumas: Sweet Conversations
Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: Fault Line; Shuffle Your Feet
Bobbie Gentry: Ode To Billie Joe
Boney M.: Rasputin
Broken Bells: The Ghost Inside
Chris Isaak: Wicket Game
Commodores: Brick House
Crazy Town: Butterfly
Creedence Clearwater Revival: Born On The Bayou; Green River; Run Through The Jungle
David Bowie: Golden Years; Heroes; Without You; China Girl
Dire Straits: Money For Nothing
Don Henley: Dirty Laundry; Sunset Grill
Eastern Sun: Beautiful Being
Eels: Souljacker Part 1
Elton John: Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting; Rocket Man
FC Kahuna: Hayling
Faithless: Addictive
Fats Domino: I Want To Walk You Home
Fleetwood Mac: The Chain; Gold Dust Woman
George Benson: On Broadway
Gordon Lightfoot: Sundown
Heart: Magic Man; White Lightning & Wine
Imagine Dragons: Natural
Jay Price: The Devil’s Bride; Dark-Hearted Man; Coming For You Baby; Boneshaker
Jeannie C. Riley: Harper Valley PTA
Jessica Bates: The Hanging Tree
Jethro Tull: Jack Frost And The Hooded Crow; I’m Your Gun; Motoreyes; Overhang; Witch’s Promise; Raising Steam; Journeyman; Weathercock; Rare And Precious Chain; Back To the Family; Taxi Grab
John Fogerty: The Old Man Down The Road
Johnny Otis: Willy & The Hand Jive
The Kills: Nail In My Coffin; Sour Cherry
Leonard Cohen: You Want It Darker; The Future
Lorde: Yellow Flicker Beat; Royals
Low: Witches; Plastic Cup; Half-Light
Matt Corby: Breathe
Outasight: Fire It Up; The Boogie; The Bounce
PJ Harvey: The Words That Maketh Murder; The Colour Of The Earth; The Glorious Land; Good Fortune
Pati Yang: All That Is Thirst
Red Venom: Let’s Get it On
REM: Drive
Robin Schulz: Sugar
Shriekback: Underwater Boys; And The Rain; The King In The Tree
Tamaryn: While You’re Sleeping, I’m Dreaming; Violet’s In A Pool
Tom Petty: Mary Jane’s Last Dance
Trills: Speak Loud
The Verve: Bitter Sweet Symphony

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Harvest Web