As as youngster, reading tales and poems penned by the incomparable master of murder most foul, madmen, premature burials, and mysterious women who return from the dead, once upon a midnight dreary spoke to me far more deeply than once upon a time.
I adored the old Vincent Price renditions of Poe’s macabre tales, which brought to life such horror classics as The Cask of Amontillado and The Pit and the Pendulum. One reason Poe connects with every reader is that he touches on our darkest fears and carefully hidden inner secrets.
When I began writing Gatekeeper, the first of my Phantom Lovers series, I decided to use Poe’s stories to tie them together. Seeing The Raven, starring John Cusack as Edgar Allan Poe, reminded me of how I’d tortured poor Amy, the sister of Gatekeeper’s heroine, Jillian.
Amy’s childhood nightmares had been haunted by Poe’s Premature Burial. The villain in Gatekeeper knew this and took full advantage of it in order to manipulate Jillian.
Image From The Raven (2012) Starring John Cusack
Here’s the chilling prologue from Gatekeeper:
“The boundaries which divide Life from Death are, at best, shadowy and vague. Who shall say where the one ends and the other begins?”
Amy Drew blinked against the bright light shining in her face. Blinding pain throbbed in the back of her head. Where was she? Why couldn’t she move? Was that a flashlight? Consciousness crept slowly back. She’d been at Shy’s Hill. That’s right. At the Civil War site. She’d been helping an earthbound spirit find the Light. Yes. It was coming back now.
“‘It may be asserted, without hesitation’,” a raspy voice droned, “‘that no event is so terribly well adapted to inspire the supremeness of bodily and of mental distress, as is burial before death.’”
Amy struggled. Panic seized her as she fought to remain conscious. Someone had hit her! Someone had hit her on the back of the head. The ghost had tried to warn her.
But who? Why?
She tried to speak but something prevented her mouth from moving. Tape?
Terrified, she writhed furiously against ropes binding her wrists and ankles. Her screams were muffled by the tape.
“Do you remember the story, Amy? Do you remember the nightmares?”
Whose voice was that? She recognized it but couldn’t place it. She squinted against the bright light.
If only she could calm down and use her psychic ability to…to what? Terror surged. She thrashed against her bonds. Her breaths were rapid and shallow, hindered by the gag.
Something landed on the damp grass next to her face. She jolted. A flash lit up the surrounding area. Someone was taking pictures! She blinked furiously and twisted in the bursts of light.
Her gaze riveted to a tattered copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s Premature Burial. Her heart slammed relentlessly against her rib cage. The tape muffled her screams.
A hand reached down and yanked out a lock of her hair. Searing pain burned her scalp. Amy twisted and fought at the bonds until every muscle in her body blazed.
“That’s just in case the photos aren’t enough proof.” And then the gloved hand took up the Poe book once more. “Shall I continue?
“‘The unendurable oppression of the lungs—the stifling fumes from the damp earth—the clinging to the death garments—the rigid embrace of the narrow house—the blackness of the absolute Night—the silence like a sea that overwhelms—the unseen but palpable presence of the Conqueror Worm—these things, with the thoughts of the air and grass above, with memory of dear friends who would fly to save us if but informed of our fate, and with consciousness that of this fate they can never be informed.’” Amy’s captor laughed without mirth. “You’re thinking about your little sister now aren’t you, Amy? You’re hoping—no, praying—she will find you in time. But Jillian doesn’t have your gift, does she? No. Is she still afraid of it? Does she still wake up during the night screaming the boogeyman is going to get her?”
Tears streamed from the corners of Amy’s eyes. This person was insane. Why was this happening? What had she done? What had Jillian done? It didn’t make sense.
The hoarse voice continued. “This is my favorite part… ‘That our hopeless portion is that of the really dead—these considerations, I say, carry into the heart, which still palpitates, a degree of appalling and intolerable horror from which the most daring imagination must recoil.’”
A foot pressed into her side and gave her a cruel shove. She was falling! Then with a solid thud, she landed on her back. The breath rushed out of her lungs from the impact.
Standing above her, just a black silhouette against the midnight blue sky—above the freshly dug grave—was her captor. Amy’s heart thudded explosively. Why was this happening? Why? The nightmare she’d had all her life was coming true. She was being buried alive!
“You should never have tried to release him, Amy.” A bone-chilling laugh erupted from her captor. “We know of nothing so agonizing upon Earth—we can dream of nothing half so hideous in the realms of the nethermost Hell.”
And then, everything went black.
Book one in the Phantom Lovers series.
Evil shadow ghosts known as soul collectors haunted her childhood nightmares, so Nashville PD criminal profiler Jillian Drew did everything possible to turn her back on her psychic abilities. But now her eccentric sister has been abducted and nothing in her criminology background has prepared Jillian for that tragedy — or for Benton Smith, the powerful and devastatingly attractive ghost of a Civil War officer and the only witness to Amy's abduction.
Fearful of the brazen specter, Jillian nevertheless needs him. Benton is her Gatekeeper, a spirit sworn to protect her from the soul collectors, who attack each time she unleashes her long-dormant psychic senses in an attempt to find her sister.
Yet she must somehow keep the devilishly seductive spirit at arm's length, for Benton's soul is at stake — and succumbing to his desires could have dangerous consequences for them both.
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Praise for Gatekeeper
Top 13 Paranormal Romances
~ Redlines And Deadlines
“If you love ghost love stories, I would rush out and get Gatekeeper to add to your own library today.”
~ Simply Romance Reviews